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Laryngeal Cancer

Determining the Type of Laryngeal Cancer

Only after a pathologist analyzes some cells or actual pieces of tissue from the lesion will your doctor be able to tell you if you have cancer. Ideally, your doctor and pathologist should specialize in head and neck cancers because some benign (non-cancerous) lesions can look like cancer on a small biopsy.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: These are by far the most common laryngeal cancers.They arise from cells lining the larynx.
    • Squamous cell cancers of the esophagus are typically given a grade by a pathologist after looking at the cells under a microscope. Grade means that the tumor falls on a scale from well differentiated (Grade I) to poorly differentiated (Grade IV). It is generally felt that the prognosis for a more well-differentiated cancer is more favorable.

More rarely, other cancers can be found in the cervical esophagus or larynx as well. Some of them include:

  • Salivary gland cancers: There are minor salivary glands located under the lining of the throat. This is why cancers that we typically see in salivary glands can arise in this region. They include diagnoses such as mucoepidermoid carcinomas, adenocarcinomas and adenoid cystic carcinomas, to name a few. See Salivary Gland Cancer for more information.
  • Lymphoma: The throat is lined with lymphoid cells. Some major sites of lymphoid tissue include the adenoids in the nasopharynx and palatine tonsils and lingual tonsils in the oropharynx. This is why lymphoma might appear as a lump in the throat area.
  • Mucosal melanoma: These cancers come from skin cells that give skin its color. In rare cases, melanoma can be found in the lining of the mouth, nose and/or throat.

Other rare cancers include:

  • Sarcomas such as chondsarcoma, liposarcoma and synovial sarcoma
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma
  • Peripheral Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET)
  • Cancer spread from another site
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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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.

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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.