Laryngeal Cancer: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Options


Laryngeal cancer, also known as larynx cancer, is a type of cancer that develops in the larynx, the organ commonly referred to as the voice box. The larynx is located in the throat and plays a vital role in speech and breathing. Laryngeal cancer typically begins in the cells lining the inner surface of the larynx and can spread to nearby tissues and other body parts if left untreated.

Primarily caused by tobacco and alcohol use, risk factors include HPV infection, age, and occupational exposure. Early detection is pivotal, offering better treatment prospects for this condition. Regular checkups and lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of laryngeal cancer and enhance the chances of successful treatment.

Commonly associated with smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, factors like HPV infection and occupational exposures can also influence it.

Laryngeal Cancer

Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer

Here is the list of symptoms of laryngeal cancer:

    • Persistent Hoarseness: One of the most common early signs of laryngeal cancer is persistent hoarseness or a change in voice quality. If hoarseness lasts for more than a few weeks, it should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
    • Sore Throat: A chronic sore throat or the feeling of a lump in the throat that doesn’t improve with time may also indicate laryngeal cancer.
    • Difficulty Swallowing: Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, can occur as the tumour grows and obstructs the passage of food.
    • Ear Pain: Some individuals with laryngeal cancer may experience referred ear pain, as the nerves in the throat are interconnected with those in the ear.
    • Coughing and coughing up blood: Persistent coughing, coughing up blood, or hemoptysis can be alarming symptoms and should be promptly evaluated.
    • Breathing Difficulties: As the tumour enlarges, it can block the airway partially or completely, leading to breathing difficulties and, in severe cases, stridor (a high-pitched sound during inhalation).
    • Unexplained Weight Loss: Significant and unexplained weight loss can occur with advanced laryngeal cancer.
    • Lump or Mass in the Neck: A lump or swelling in the neck may develop if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Causes of Laryngeal Cancer

    • Tobacco & Alcohol Use- The primary cause of laryngeal cancer is tobacco and alcohol use, with smokers and heavy drinkers at the highest risk.
    • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection- Certain strains of HPV have been linked to laryngeal cancer, especially in non-smokers and younger individuals.
    • Age- Laryngeal cancer is more common in individuals over 50.
    • Gender- Men are four to five times more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than women.
    • Occupational Exposure- Certain occupational exposures to chemicals and fumes, such as asbestos and wood dust, have been associated with an increased risk of laryngeal cancer.
    • Poor Diet- A diet low in fruits and vegetables may contribute to an increased risk of laryngeal cancer.

Diagnosis of Laryngeal Cancer

Diagnosing laryngeal cancer typically involves several steps:

    • Medical History and Physical Examination: A healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and risk factors and conduct a physical examination, including a thorough throat examination.
    • Imaging Studies: Imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans may be performed to visualise the tumour and determine its size and extent.
    • Endoscopy: An endoscopy is a procedure in which a thin, flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) is inserted through the nose or mouth to visualise the larynx and surrounding areas.
    • Biopsy: A biopsy involves removing a small tissue sample from the larynx for examination under a microscope. This is the definitive method for confirming cancer.

Treatment Options For Laryngeal Cancer

Treatment for laryngeal cancer depends on the stage of the disease and can involve one or a combination of the following approaches:

    • Surgery: Surgical options include removing part or all of the larynx (laryngectomy) or removing the tumour (transoral surgery).
    • Radiation Therapy: High-energy radiation is used to target and kill cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with surgery.
    • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. It may be used before or after surgery or with radiation therapy.
    • Targeted Therapy and Immunotherapy: These newer treatment approaches target specific molecules involved in cancer growth or enhance the body’s immune response to cancer cells.
    • Speech Therapy and Rehabilitation: After treatment, patients may need speech therapy to help regain their ability to speak and swallow.
    • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs work by stimulating the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Some immunotherapy drugs have been approved for the treatment of advanced laryngeal cancer.

When to Consult a Doctor

You can also get in touch with the expert oncology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.


Q. What are the common symptoms of laryngeal cancer?
A. Common symptoms of laryngeal cancer include persistent hoarseness, a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, coughing up blood, and breathing difficulties.

Q. What are the primary causes of laryngeal cancer?
A. The main causes of laryngeal cancer are smoking and heavy alcohol consumption. Other risk factors include HPV infection, age (usually over 50), and occupational exposure to certain chemicals.

Q. How is laryngeal cancer diagnosed?
A. Laryngeal cancer is diagnosed through medical history assessment, physical examination, imaging tests (such as CT scans), and a biopsy, where a tissue sample is taken for microscopic examination.

Q. Can laryngeal cancer be prevented?
A. While some risk factors like age and genetics can’t be changed, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, practising safe sex to reduce HPV risk, and maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.

Q. What are the treatment options for laryngeal cancer?
A. Treatment options depend on the cancer’s stage and may include surgery (partial or total laryngectomy), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. The choice of treatment is determined by medical professionals based on individual cases.

Approved and Reviewed by:

Narayana Health

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