Cancer of the Larynx

Some basic information about cancer of the larynx—including the most common regions for development.

Cancer of the larynx is also called laryngeal cancer. It can develop in any region of the larynx--the glottis (where the vocal cords are), the supraglottis (the area above the cords), or the subglottis (the area that connects the larynx to the trachea).

If the cancer spreads outside the larynx, it usually goes first to the lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands) in the neck. It can also spread to the back of the tongue, other parts of the throat and neck, the lungs, and sometimes other parts of the body.

Cancer that spreads is the same disease and has the same name as the original (primary) cancer. When cancer of the larynx spreads, it is called metastatic laryngeal cancer

Preparing for Treatment

Many people with cancer want to learn all they can about the disease and their treatment choices so they can take an active part in decisions about their medical care. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, shock and stress are natural reactions. These feelings may make it difficult to think of everything to ask the doctor. Often, it helps to make a list of questions. To help remember what the doctor says, patients may take notes or ask whether they may use a tape recorder. Some people also want to have a family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor--to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.

People do not need to ask all of their questions or remember all of the answers at one time. Questions may arise throughout the treatment process. Patients may ask doctors, nurses, or other members of the health care team to explain things further or to provide more information.

These are some questions a patient may want to ask the doctor before treatment begins:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What is the stage of the disease?
  • What is the grade of the disease?
  • What are the treatment choices? Which do you recommend? Why?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment?
  • What are the chances that the treatment will be successful?
  • What new treatments are being studied in clinical trials? Would a clinical trial be appropriate?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • Will treatment affect my normal activities? If so, for how long
  • What is the treatment likely to cost?

Follow-up care

Regular follow-up is very important after treatment for cancer of the larynx. The doctor will check closely to be sure that the cancer has not returned. Checkups include exams of the stoma, neck, and throat. From time to time, the doctor does a complete physical exam, blood and urine tests, and x-rays. People treated with radiation therapy or partial laryngectomy will have a laryngoscopy.

People who have been treated for cancer of the larynx have a higher-than-average risk of developing a new cancer in the mouth, throat, or other areas of the head and neck. This is especially true for those who smoke. Most doctors strongly urge their patients to stop smoking to cut down the risk of a new cancer and to reduce other problems, such as coughing.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc.

This article is adapted from information in the What You Need to Know About™ Cancer series, published by the National Cancer Institute.



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