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Quick Facts

Laryngeal Cancer

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Your larynx is often called your voice box because it holds the vocal cords that help you make sounds. The larynx makes the bump you can see and feel in the middle of your neck. Some people call that bump the "Adam's apple."

What is laryngeal cancer?

Laryngeal cancer is cancer that’s in your larynx.

  • Symptoms include hoarseness in your voice that doesn’t go away, a lump in your neck, and later on breathing and swallowing problems

  • It’s the most common head and neck cancer

  • Laryngeal cancer is more common in men than in women, especially men over 60

  • Smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol raise your chance of getting laryngeal cancer

See a doctor if you’ve had hoarseness that’s lasted for more than 2 to 3 weeks.

Locating the Larynx

Locating the Larynx

What causes laryngeal cancer?

Doctors don’t always know what causes laryngeal cancer, but the biggest risk factor is:

  • Smoking

Nearly everyone who gets laryngeal cancer is, or was, a smoker.

The chance of getting laryngeal cancer is also higher if you:

  • Are a man, especially if you're over 60

  • Drank a lot of alcohol for a long time

What are the symptoms of laryngeal cancer?

The symptoms of laryngeal cancer are:

  • A hoarse voice (or a change in your voice) that doesn’t go away after a few weeks

  • Throat or ear pain

  • A lump in your neck

  • Trouble breathing and swallowing

How can doctors tell if I have laryngeal cancer?

How do doctors treat laryngeal cancer?

Treatment depends on how much the cancer has grown and spread.

Doctors treat early-stage cancer with one of the following:

These treatments usually don’t affect your voice.

Doctors treat more advanced cancer with a combination of treatments, such as:

Side effects of treatment

Almost all treatments for laryngeal cancer have side effects.

Radiation to your neck may cause:

  • Red, itchy skin

  • Loss of taste

  • Dry mouth

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Dental problems, if your teeth were exposed to radiation

If you have trouble swallowing after treatment, doctors may need to stretch open your esophagus. The esophagus is the food pipe that carries food from your mouth to your stomach.

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