The windpipe (trachea), throat Mouth and Throat Cancer Mouth and throat cancers are cancers that originate on the lips, the roof, sides, or floor of the mouth, tongue, tonsils, or back of the throat. Mouth and throat cancers may look like open sores... read more (pharynx), and voice box Laryngeal Cancer Laryngeal cancer is cancer originating in the larynx, also known as the voice box. People may be hoarse or have a lump in the neck or difficulty breathing or swallowing. A biopsy is needed for... read more (larynx) can develop tumors that either grow into the structures or press on them, blocking breathing. Tumors from elsewhere in the body may also spread to these areas (metastasize).
Tumors that develop in the trachea are rare. They are often cancerous (malignant) and found at a locally advanced stage (having spread to nearby tissue or lymph nodes).
The most common malignant tracheal tumors include squamous cell carcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma, carcinoid tumors, and mucoepidermoid carcinomas.
The most common noncancerous (benign) airway tumor is a squamous papilloma, although other benign conditions can also occur.
Symptoms of Airway Tumors
Symptoms of airway tumors include
Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
Wheezing or other abnormal breathing noises
Difficulty swallowing and hoarseness can also be present.
Diagnosis of Airway Tumors
Doctors may consider an airway tumor if symptoms develop gradually and if standard treatments are ineffective, for example, if drugs used to treat asthma do not relieve wheezing. If an airway tumor is suspected, doctors do bronchoscopy Bronchoscopy Bronchoscopy is a direct visual examination of the voice box (larynx) and airways through a viewing tube (a bronchoscope). A bronchoscope has a camera at the end that allows a doctor to look... read more . Bronchoscopy can both relieve airway blockage and allow specimens to be obtained for diagnosis.
If cancer is found, more extensive testing Diagnosis Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. About 85% of cases are related to cigarette smoking. One common symptom is a persistent cough or a change in the character... read more for staging is done.
Treatment of Airway Tumors
Obstruction reduction techniques
Certain types of airway tumors should be removed surgically if possible. In other cases, radiation therapy Radiation therapy for lung cancer Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. About 85% of cases are related to cigarette smoking. One common symptom is a persistent cough or a change in the character... read more with or without chemotherapy or targeted therapies Targeted therapies for lung cancer Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. About 85% of cases are related to cigarette smoking. One common symptom is a persistent cough or a change in the character... read more is recommended.
If surgery is not possible, certain less invasive procedures can be used to remove some of the tumor. Laser vaporization, photodynamic therapy, cryotherapy, and endobronchial brachytherapy are options to remove a tumor blocking an airway. If a tumor presses on the trachea, doctors may insert a stent to hold the trachea open or use radiation therapy to shrink the tumor.
Prognosis for Airway Tumors
Prognosis depends on the type of cancer. Cancers that spread to lymph nodes in the neck or chest or that grow into nearby structures tend to have a worse prognosis.
The following English language resources provide information and support for patients and their caregivers. THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
American Cancer Society: General information on all types of cancer, including prevention, testing, treatments and information for people living with cancer and their caregivers
American Cancer Society: Lung Cancer: More specific information from ACS on lung cancer, including types, screening and treatments
American Lung Association: General information on all types of lung diseases, including lung cancer and quitting smoking
American Lung Association: Lung Cancer: More specific information from ALA on lung cancer, including what to do after a lung cancer diagnosis
CancerCare: General information about all types of cancer, including resources for counseling and support groups
CancerCare: Lung Cancer: More specific information from Cancer Care for people with lung cancer, including support services and links to additional resources
National Cancer Institute: U. S. government resource on cancer, including research updates and information on clinical trials
National Cancer Institute: Lung Cancer: More specific information from the NCI on lung cancer, especially advances in treatment and the latest research findings
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship: Advocates for high quality care for all people with cancer