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Diagnosis and Treatment of Laryngeal Cancer

The larynx is the area in your neck often referred to as the voice box. As the name implies, the voice box contains your vocal cords. The vocal cords reside in the middle part of the larynx called the glottis. The glottis is bounded by the supraglottis on the top of the larynx, and the subglottis on the bottom of the larynx.

Although the vocal chords vibrate and produce sounds involved in speech, other structures such as the pharynx and parts of the mouth are also involved in producing speech. Most larynx cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, meaning they arise from flat, thin cells in the epidermis lining the region.

Improving Your Chances of Success

Tobacco and alcohol consumption are the primary causes of laryngeal cancers. Encouragingly, studies have shown that you will respond better to treatment if you can stop smoking or chewing tobacco during and after receiving therapy. The Stanford Cancer Center offers free smoking cessation services to help you meet this important goal.

Early stage glottis cancer can produce noticeable voice changes, so it is often detected when it is most treatable. Conversely, supraglottis cancers may not cause symptoms and thus are likely to be detected later when patients have noticeable neck lumps or voice changes. Early detection and treatment of larynx cancer greatly improves survival rates, so it is important not to neglect potential symptoms, particularly if you regularly use tobacco and/or alcohol.

Stanford Expertise

Although it is one of the more common head and neck cancers, laryngeal cancer is still relatively rare. In the United States, the majority of laryngeal cancers (more than 65 percent) occur in the glottis, approximately 30 percent of laryngeal cancers occur in the supraglottis, and the rest occur in the subglottis. Therefore, it is important to be seen by a team of physicians who have expertise in treating this specific disease.

Laryngeal cancers can be treated with surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy depending on the stage and type of cancer. Great advances have been made in radiation therapy, laser surgery, and larynx-conserving surgery so that the majority of laryngeal cancer patients today are able to avoid a total laryngectomy.

The head and neck cancer specialists at the Stanford Cancer Center have extensive experience treating laryngeal cancer, and will provide you with the multidisciplinary, quality, compassionate care that you deserve. Your doctors and nurses will take care to minimize and manage treatment side effects like mucositis.

In addition, the multidisciplinary expertise of the Stanford Voice Center, the Stanford Center for Human Communication and Stanford speech therapists are integrated into treatment to ensure maximum success in preserving your swallowing, speaking, and breathing ability.

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