Laryngeal Cancer in Tampa and Spring Hill, FL
Laryngeal cancer affects the larynx, or voice box. The cancer causes coughing, difficulty breathing and swallowing, respiratory infections and many other symptoms. Without proper treatment, the cancer spreads to other surrounding tissues. At Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists, we offer advanced treatments for laryngeal cancer by board-certified Otolaryngologist/Head and Neck Surgeons, giving the residents of Tampa, Spring Hill and surrounding towns in Florida the confidence they need for Laryngeal cancer treatment.
What Is Laryngeal Cancer?
Laryngeal cancer affects the larynx, the anatomical structure that produces the sound of your voice. The larynx is comprised of three parts: the supraglottis, the glottis, and the subglottis. The glottis is where the vocal cords are housed while the supraglottis and subglottis reside above and below the glottis respectively. Laryngeal cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the larynx. It can occur in any part of the larynx, but it usually starts in the squamous cells within the glottis.
What Are the Signs/Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer?
Because laryngeal cancer affects the throat, most signs and symptoms affect the ear, nose, and throat. One of the most common symptoms of laryngeal cancer is changes in voice because it commonly affects the vocal cords first. Many people with laryngeal cancer in the glottis experience hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks. If the cancer does not initially affect the glottis, hoarseness only occurs in the late stages. Other symptoms of laryngeal cancer are:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest infection
- Ear pain
- Weight loss
What Are the Causes of Laryngeal Cancer?
Like most cancers, there is no specific known cause. However, there are many different factors that can increase the chance of developing laryngeal cancer, such as:
- Tobacco use
- Heavy alcohol use
- Poor eating habits
- Weak immune system
- Common acid reflux
- Exposure to dangerous substances and chemicals, such as paint fumes.
Most of these risk factors increase the chance of a mutation, and substances such as tobacco or heavy alcohol use may actually damage the DNA of the cells.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Laryngeal Cancer?
If a patient experiences the aforementioned symptoms for a long period of time, they should visit Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists for an examination. The doctor begins with an external examination of the throat to check for any lumps. The next step is to use an endoscope to examine the inside of the throat. An endoscope is a long tube that has a light and camera at the end. This allows a doctor to view the inside of a throat without any incisions. If the doctor does spot some abnormal tissue, a small sample is taken for a biopsy. The doctor examines the tissue under a microscope to check for any cancerous cells.
How Is Laryngeal Cancer Treated?
If the doctor determines there are cancerous cells within the larynx, treatment is performed. Treatment depends on many factors, including the severity of the cancer. Luckily, regardless of the treatment, the patient won’t lose the ability to speak. However, due to the removal of tissue, parts of the larynx or even parts of the neck muscles, their voice may change. They may even require the assistance of a speech-language pathologist (SLPs). Common treatments for laryngeal cancer are:
- Radiation treatments
- Partial laryngectomy
- Total laryngectomy
Radiation treatments, while beneficial and helpful, come with their own set of side effects. Those patients who must undergo radiation to help destroy cancer cells may experience symptoms as the result of treatment, such as:
- Irritated skin at the site of treatment (dry, red, etc.)
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Sensitive mouth
- Mouth sores
- Swelling that causes breathing difficulties
- Reduced taste
If the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body, chemotherapy is necessary to stop the further spread and destroy malignant cells. The treatment may cause unwanted side effects, such as:
- Shortness of breath
Luckily, the side effects associated with radiation treatment and chemotherapy usually only last during treatment. Once radiation and chemotherapy have stopped, so do the negative side effects.
What Is a Laryngectomy?
A total laryngectomy may be required for the most severe cases of laryngeal cancer. A laryngectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the larynx and create a new path for breathing.
A hole or stoma is created at the base of the neck, giving direct access to the trachea. Instead of drawing or exhaling air through the nose or mouth, the patient pulls it through the stoma and directly into the trachea.
When a person breathes through their nose or mouth, the air is warmed and moistened, but the air that comes through the stoma does not get that luxury. This often causes a buildup of mucus within the trachea and a collection of dried mucus to crust around the stoma, which must be occasionally removed to prevent suffocation.
Is Laryngeal Cancer Common?
Laryngeal cancer is not a very common cancer. Out of all diagnosed cancers, only about 2% to 5% are laryngeal cancer. Men are twice as likely to get diagnosed, and most people who develop laryngeal cancer are between 50 and 70 years old.
Because laryngeal cancer accounts for only a small percentage of all cancer diagnoses, finding an experienced and qualified physician for your treatment may be difficult. At Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists in Tampa and Spring Hill, our ENT physicians have the expertise you need for treating laryngeal cancer. To learn more about our treatments, contact our office to schedule a personal consultation.