Voice Box Cancer

What is voice box cancer?

The larynx is also called as the voice box. Cancers occurring in larynx (voice box) are called as laryngeal cancer . Voice box is the organ which help in phonation. Its estimated to cause around 2 lakhs death annually world wide.

Stages of voice box cancer

4 stages of voice box or laryngeal cancer.

  • Stage I- early
  • Stage II – Intermediate
  • Stage III & IV – Advanced

Early cancers have a good survival and cure rate compared to the advanced cancers.

Symptoms of voice box cancers

Most common symptoms are hoarseness , Painful swallowing, ear ache or development of mass in the neck that is slowly growing in size .

Causes and risk factors of voice box (Laryngeal cancer)

Tobacco use is known to be a major factor

Other factors are – Alcohol consumption, Nutritional deficiencies , Genetic factors and viral factors.

Diagnosis of voice box cancers.

Direct visualization through a fibre optic or rigid endoscope is required.

Then the tissue biopsy and histological interpretation by a pathologist is essential because most treatment decisions are based on the size and extent of cancer. Imaging like MRI scan and CT scan also play a vital role to analyse the extent of the disease. PET scan used to check the spread of the cancer in the rest of the parts of body.

Treatment of voice box cancer.

  • Early cancer: Early cancer of the the voice box can be treated with surgery alone or radiation. Most modern surgical procedures of early voice box with superficial spread of cancers can retain the voice quality and swallowing. Decision making is based on the extent of the disease or cancer.
  • Intermediate cancer: Deeply involved cancers are treated with surgical removal along with neck dissection (removal of neck lymph nodes). Most of these procedures can preserve some vocal function without permanent tracheostomy( airway in the neck) . More extensive surgical procedures are associated with significant problems with voice and swallowing . Radiation alone or in combination with chemotherapy is advised depending on the extent of the disease and other factors like the age and fitness of the patient to undergo the treatment.
  • Advanced cancer: Standard treatment for patients with advanced laryngeal (voice box ) cancer is a procedure called total laryngectomy often combined with neck dissection (clearance of neck lymphnodes) . This is followed up by radiation therapy. The major sequeale is loss of natural voice and having a permanent stoma(hole) in the neck . In certain cancers Chemotherapy is given and if response is good its combined with radiotherapy and results could be at par with total laryngectomy.

Preventing voice box cancer.

Habits like smoking should be completely avoided.

Healthy life style should be maintained and vegetables and fruits should be included in the food to have a balanced diet with a good nutritional value.