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Laryngeal cancer, which typically forms in the squamous cells that line the inside of the larynx, makes up about 2 to 5 percent of diagnosed cases of cancer every year. It is about twice as common in men as it is in women, and it usually occurs in people older than 50.
The larynx rests in the throat and contains the vocal cords, making it critically important to forming basic speech. The development of laryngeal cancer puts this power of speech at risk.
Causes and Symptoms
In many cases, laryngeal cancer can be prevented by avoiding some of the risk factors for the disease. For example, many cases of laryngeal cancer are related to heavy drinking and smoking. Poor nutrition is also a cause, as is frequent acid reflux. A weakened immune system and exposure to toxic chemicals are two other causes of laryngeal cancer.
If you have laryngeal cancer, it may feel like a common sore throat or cough, except that it doesn’t go away with time. Pain or difficulty swallowing, voice hoarseness, a lump in the neck and throat or ear pain are other symptoms of laryngeal cancer. Of course, these can be signs of other conditions as well, which is why it’s important to see a doctor if these symptoms persist.
Treatment of Laryngeal Cancer
Treatment options for laryngeal cancer include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. In an operation called a partial laryngectomy, part of the larynx is removed; other time complete removal, known as a full laryngectomy, is needed. Those who require a full laryngectomy will no longer be able to speak normally, and follow-up procedures or devices are often required for the person to be able to speak. Usually, working closely with a speech-language pathologist is also needed to regain speech.
SOURCES: U.S. National Cancer Institute; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association