What is larynx cancer?
When the tumoral cells are located in the larynx, it is a larynx cancer.
The larynx is a triangular conduct the vertex of which is Adam's apple, which connects the pharynx and the trachea, and where the vocal chords are located. The human being can make them vibrate expulsing air from the lungs, and the sound they make can be modulated with the mouth, nose and pharynx to form the voice.
The larynx has three areas or regions:
- The glottis, which is in the middle and contains the vocal chords.
- The supraglottic region, which is a tissue located above the glottis and contains the epiglottis, which works as a lid that blocks the glottis so that food can go down the oesophagus without entering the lungs.
- Subglottic reguon, which is under the glottis and connects with the trachea.
Which are the symptoms of larynx cancer?
The symptoms of a larynx cancer depend on the placement and extension of the tumour:
- When the tumour is supraglottic, deglutition (swallowing) is affected, there's irritation on the parynx, localized pain when swallowing that can reach the ear
- When the glottis is affected the initial symptom is disphonia or hoarseness. In both cases, if the tumour is in a more advanced stage, there can be breathing difficulties and dyspnea.
- A lump (nodule) may appear on the neck.
How is it diagnosed?
The specialist will introduce a tube topped with a camera through the mouth or the nose to observe the larynx (laryngoscope). If any anomalous tissue is found, a fragment will be extracted (biopsy) and a pathologist will examine it to confirm the presence of cancerous cells. The neck will also be palpated in search of nodules.
What is its prognosis like?
Compared to other types of cancer, the prognosis of larynx cancer is relatively good, especially if it is detected early.
The possibilities of recovery will depend on:
- The region of the larynx where the cancer is located
- Whether the cancer is just in the larynx or it has spread (stage of metastasis)
- The patient's health
Larynx cancer staging
Once the cancer is diagnosed, the specialist will require radiologic studies (tomography, MRI, PET) in order to know the extension of the tumour and whether there is metastasis. Then the stage will be determined and the most adequate treatment will be planned.
- Stage II: The cancer has invaded a neighbour region and there is no metastasis.
- Stage III: Any of the following situations:
- Immobilized vocal cord
- The cancer has invaded neighbour tissues
- There is metastasis on a lymphatic nodule of the same side of the neck as the cancer and is smaller than 3cm
- Stage IV: any of the following situations:
- The cancer has invaded the surrounding tissues, such as the pharynx or neck tissues.
- The cancer has spread to more than one lymphatic nodule on the same side of the neck or both sides or any lymphatic nodule bigger than 6 cm.
- The cancer has reached other parts of the body.
- Recurrent: the cancer has spread after being treated. It can regrow both in the larynx and any other part of the body. Recurrent: el cáncer se ha reproducido después de haber sido tratado. Puede reproducirse tanto en la laringe como en otra parte del cuerpo
The traditional larynx cancer treatment, the sixth most frequent on males, has been surgical and not much more than 40 years ago it consisted in the total resection of the larynx.
Nowadays this therapy is practised less regularly and is usually replaced by other surgical techniques that respect the organ of the respiratory system and the vocal apparatus and its functions.
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