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Laryngeal Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer

Most commonly, patients with larynx cancer will go to a doctor because they noticed a change in their voice.9 Hoare TJ, Thomson HG, Proops DW. Detection of laryngeal cancer--the case for early specialist assessment. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Jul 1993;86(7):390-392. In some cases, the first sign of a larynx cancer could be a lump in the neck. This means that the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.

  • A hoarse voice: Voice is made by a smooth vibration of the vocal cords at a super fast speed. If there is a tumor on the cords or around the muscles or joints of the vocal cords, it can cause your voice to change quite drastically.
  • A lump in the neck: This will be a symptom of laryngeal cancer if it has spread to lymph nodes in the neck. This can be the first symptom that brings a patient to the doctor. If you have a neck mass and your doctor is concerned that it represents cancer spread from somewhere else, he or she will look all over, including the larynx.
  • Ear pain (particularly on one side, with no other ear problems): Ear pain, also known as otalgia, happens because the nerves of the throat reach the brain through the same pathway as one of the nerves in the ear. Therefore, your brain might interpret a pain in the throat as coming from the ear. This is called referred pain. Consequently, unexplained ear pain that doesn’t go away should be evaluated by a specialist. It is important to understand that most causes of ear pain are due to simple problems such as middle ear infection or dysfunction of the Eustachian tube. TMJ pain due to a problem in the joint located in front of the ear may also present as otalgia.
  • Pain or difficulty with swallowing in the throat: This can occur because a tumor is in the way of swallowing, and so it becomes difficult or painful to swallow. Also, there can be ulceration and bleeding as the tumor grows, causing pain.

Other possible symptoms might include:

  • Weight loss
  • Feeling like there’s something stuck in your throat
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Coughing every time you drink liquids
  • Difficult or noisy breathing

But don’t jump to any conclusions. You could have one or more of these symptoms but NOT have laryngeal cancer. There are several non-cancerous causes of the same symptoms. That’s why you need to see a specialist.

References

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2 Lewin F, Norell SE, Johansson H, et al. Smoking tobacco, oral snuff, and alcohol in the etiology of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck: a population-based case-referent study in Sweden. Cancer. Apr 1 1998;82(7):1367-1375.

3 Lynch HT, Mulcahy GM, Harris RE, Guirgis HA, Lynch JF. Genetic and pathologic findings in a kindred with hereditary sarcoma, breast cancer, brain tumors, leukemia, lung, laryngeal, and adrenal cortical carcinoma. Cancer. May 1978;41(5):2055-2064.

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6 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Esophageal and Esophagogastric Junction Cancers V.2.2016. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed December 7, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org.

7 El-Serag HB, Hepworth EJ, Lee P, Sonnenberg A. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a risk factor for laryngeal and pharyngeal cancer. Am J Gastroenterol. Jul 2001;96(7):2013-8.

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9 Hoare TJ, Thomson HG, Proops DW. Detection of laryngeal cancer--the case for early specialist assessment. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Jul 1993;86(7):390-392.

10 Spiro RH, Thaler HT, Hicks WF, Kher UA, Huvos AH, Strong EW. The importance of clinical staging of minor salivary gland carcinoma. Am J Surg. 1991 Oct;162(4):330-6.

11 Krause CJ, Carey TE, Ott RW, Hurbis C, McClatchey KD, Regezi JA. Human squamous cell carcinoma. Establishment and characterization of new permanent cell lines. Arch Otolaryngol. Nov 1981;107(11):703-710.

12 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Head and Neck Cancers V.2.2016. ©National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed December 7, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org.

13 Mantravadi RV, Liebner EJ, Haas RE, Skolnik EM, Applebaum EL. Cancer of the glottis: prognostic factors in radiation therapy. Radiology. Oct 1983;149(1):311-314.

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15 Edge SB, et al. The AJCC Cancer Staging Manual – Seventh Edition. American Joint Committee on Cancer 2010.

16 Piccirillo JF, Costas I. Chapter 8: Cancer of the Larynx. Ries LAG, Young JL, Keel GE, Eisner MP, Lin YD, Horner M-J (editors). SEER Survival Monograph: Cancer Survival Among Adults: U.S. SEER Program, 1988-2001, Patient and Tumor Characteristics. National Cancer Institute, SEER Program, NIH Pub. No. 07-6215, Bethesda, MD, 2007.