Laryngeal Cancer (Voice Box Cancer)

The larynx, also called the voice box, is a short passageway formed by cartilage just below the pharynx in the neck. It forms the upper part of the windpipe (trachea). The larynx contains the vocal cords, which enable you to speak. It also includes a small piece of tissue called the epiglottis, which folds down to cover the larynx when you swallow, so food will not go down the air passages.

Laryngeal Cancer Risk Factors

In the U.S., more than 12,000 laryngeal cancers are diagnosed every year. About three in every 100,000 Americans develop this type of cancer. The most important risk factors are tobacco use (either smoking or chewing) and/or heavy drinking. Other risk factors include chronic chemical exposure and gastric reflux disease.

Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancers

  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic cough
  • Difficulty swallowing, or pain when swallowing
  • Lump in the neck
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty breathing

The chance of a cure in laryngeal cancer patients is high when the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. More than 75 percent of patients with early-stage laryngeal cancer survive at least five years, whereas only about 35 percent of the patients with late-stage laryngeal cancers survive five years. Overall, the five-year survival rate is over 62 percent for cancers of the larynx.