Get Treatment For Laryngeal Cancer

Great Surgical Care at Marina del Rey Hospital

Why Choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for Laryngeal Cancer Treatment?

With over 50 years of experience in providing quality healthcare, our team of medical professionals will offer you the treatment you need for laryngeal cancer in a warm and compassionate environment, as we place great emphasis on the comfort and wellbeing of our patients. By virtue of the state-of-the-art technology Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital is equipped with, we can perform laryngeal cancer surgery with minimal risks of postoperative complications so that you can resume your daily activities within the shortest time possible.

Every year, approximately 11,000 people in the United States receive a laryngeal cancer diagnosis. The larynx, also known as the voicebox, is the area of the throat that contains the vocal cords and allows us to breathe, swallow and talk. It is located at the top of the windpipe, also known as the trachea. The opening of the larynx is covered by a large muscular flap known as the epiglottis. It covers the windpipe when we swallow to prevent food from going into the trachea.

Furthermore, the muscles of the larynx also help close the opening to the airway and this closing function is so important that seven of the eight muscles in the larynx are used for closure. Unfortunately, cancer can occur nearly anywhere in the body and the larynx is no exception. When malignant cells start developing in the inner lining of the larynx, laryngeal cancer is diagnosed. The larynx has 3 main parts and cancer can develop anywhere along it, namely:

  • the supraglottis: the upper part of the larynx above the vocal cords, which includes the epiglottis
  • the glottis: the middle part of the larynx where the vocal cords are situated
  • the subglottis: the lower part of the larynx between the vocal cords and the windpipe

The treatment you will receive for laryngeal cancer will highly depend on the type of malignant cells present within the tumor, whether cancer has spread to adjacent parts of the body, your age, your general health, and your preferences. In the fortunate case when laryngeal cancer is found in the early stages, patients are usually eligible for surgery, whose purpose is to remove the malignant tumor and the surrounding tissue affected by cancer and can be of many types, such as:

  • partial laryngectomy: during this surgery, a portion of the larynx is removed and you will still be able to talk afterward, but your voice may sound different
  • total laryngectomy: the purpose of this surgery is to remove the entire larynx when cancer has spread extensively and subsequently, a hole will be made in the front of your neck so that you can breathe, but you will not be able to talk following this procedure
  • hemilaryngectomy: the surgeon will remove half or one side of your larynx and you will be able to talk after this procedure, but your voice will not sound the same
  • thyroidectomy: because laryngeal cancer can easily spread to the thyroid gland, people with this disease may need it removed, which is the purpose of this surgery
  • cordectomy: during this surgical procedure, some or all of your vocal cords will be removed and if only some of them are removed, your voice will sound hoarse afterward, but if all of them are removed, you will no longer be able to talk
  • vocal cord stripping: the surgeon removes the malignant tumors from your vocal cords and this will not affect your ability to talk
  • laser surgery: this surgical procedure uses a laser to remove the malignant tumor from your larynx and may cause your voice to sound hoarse
  • supraglottic laryngectomy: the surgeon only removes the upper portion of your larynx and the procedure will not affect your ability to talk
  • neck dissection: if laryngeal cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, this surgery may be necessary for you, as it will remove the affected lymph nodes, and following the procedure, the way you move your neck and shoulders may be affected

Chemotherapy, which the patient may undergo before or after the surgery, is another effective treatment for laryngeal cancer, whose purpose is to destroy as many malignant cells as possible, as well as to prevent cancer from spreading. You may receive chemotherapy in the form of a pill or intravenous injection. The following chemotherapy medication has proven to be very efficient for the treatment of laryngeal cancer:

  • cisplatin
  • fluorouracil
  • capecitabine
  • carboplatin
  • paclitaxel
  • gemcitabine

Radiotherapy can also be effective in controlling laryngeal cancer. According to medical studies, it works better in people who quit smoking before treatment. The most novel and efficient radiotherapy to treat laryngeal cancer is hyperfractionated radiation therapy. During this treatment, a smaller than usual daily amount of radiation is divided into two doses and the patient receives the treatment twice a day.

Another treatment for laryngeal cancer is immunotherapy. It uses the immune system of the patient to help fight cancer and uses substances made in the body or artificial substances to boost, direct or restore the natural defenses of the body against cancer. The two medications that are used in immunotherapy for laryngeal cancer are nivolumab and pembrolizumab, which are immune checkpoint inhibitors. They are very effective in the treatment of metastatic or recurring laryngeal cancer.

Lastly, targeted therapy may be used as a treatment for people with laryngeal cancer. It uses medication or other substances to destroy specific malignant cells. Treatment with mononuclear antibodies is currently the most efficient targeted therapy for laryngeal cancer. It employs antibodies made in a laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. Because they can identify substances on malignant cells or normal substances in the blood or tissues that promote the growth of malignant tumors, these antibodies attach to the substances and destroy the cancer cells, block their growth or prevent them from spreading. This treatment is given by infusion.

There are several types of laryngeal cancer, depending on what malignant cells are present within the tumor, such as:

  • squamous cell carcinoma: accounting for the majority of laryngeal cancer cases, squamous cell carcinoma begins developing in the flat cells that cover the surface of the epiglottis, vocal cords, and other portions of the larynx
  • adenocarcinoma: as a less common type of laryngeal cancer, adenocarcinoma starts in the gland cells that produce mucus, which are scattered around the surface of the larynx
  • sarcoma: this rare type of laryngeal cancer develops in the connective tissue of the larynx, which includes bone, muscle, and nerves
  • chondrosarcomas: as a very rare type of laryngeal cancer, it starts in the cartilage of the larynx

Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer

People with laryngeal cancer may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • a persistent sore throat or cough
  • pain or difficulty swallowing
  • ear pain
  • a lump in the neck or throat
  • a hoarse voice or other voice changes
  • coughing up sputum that contains blood
  • difficulty breathing, in severe cases
  • unexplained weight loss

Diagnosis of Laryngeal Cancer

The diagnosis of laryngeal cancer begins with a physical exam, during which your doctor will ask you questions about your health, the symptoms you experience, and your family history of cancer. They will also check your neck for the presence of a lump that could indicate laryngeal cancer. Afterward, they will order some of the following tests and exams to assign you a correct and accurate diagnosis:

  • laryngoscopy: during this exam, the physician will examine your larynx with the use of a laryngoscope, which is a thin, long, and flexible tube with a light attached
  • endoscopy: this procedure entails the insertion of a thin and flexible tube through your mouth or through a tiny incision in your neck so that the doctor can examine the areas that could have been affected by cancer and during it, a small sample of tissue from your larynx may be collected for biopsy
  • CT scan: computed tomography provides the physician with clear images from the inside of your body and is very useful for the diagnosis of laryngeal cancer, as it shows the size of the tumor and whether it has spread to nearby areas of the body
  • MRI scan: this effective test uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of the body and is also very helpful in the diagnosis of laryngeal cancer
  • biopsy: with the use of endoscopy or another procedure, the doctor collects a sample of tissue from the tumors present on your larynx and sends it to the laboratory, where it will be analyzed by a pathologist, a medical professional who specializes in recognizing malignant cells
  • barium swallow: for this test, you will be asked to drink a liquid that contains barium, which will highlight your larynx, then the doctor will examine your throat with the use of X-rays
  • fine-needle aspiration biopsy: during this test, a thin needle is inserted into a lump in the neck to aspire some of the potentially malignant cells, which will subsequently be sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist to determine the presence or absence of cancer
  • PET scan: positron emission tomography is another useful imaging test for the diagnosis of laryngeal cancer, as it provides the physician with clear images from the inside of your body, and before it, a small amount of radioactive sugar may be injected into one of your veins to highlight the potentially malignant tumor on your larynx

While the cause of laryngeal cancer remains unknown, medical researchers found a series of factors whose presence may increase the risk of developing this disease, including:

  • being a man, as laryngeal cancer is 4 times more common in men than in women
  • smoking, which is the cause of laryngeal cancer in approximately 95% of cases
  • excessive alcohol consumption, which irritates the larynx, and increases the risk of developing laryngeal cancer by 100 times
  • being over the age of 50, as laryngeal cancer is more common in the elderly, with most patients being 65 or older when their disease is diagnosed
  • having certain inherited syndromes, such as Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita
  • occupational exposure to toxic agents, such as sulfuric acid mist, nickel, wood dust, paint fumes, and asbestos
  • being African-American or Caucasian, as laryngeal cancer is more common in these races than it is in Latinos and Asians
  • a diet low in vitamins A and E, which can significantly increase the risk of laryngeal cancer
  • poor oral hygiene, which refers to not brushing your teeth regularly or not using dental floss, as well as to not going to the dentist for routine checkups twice a year
  • having gastroesophageal reflux disease, which irritates the larynx to a great extent, which in turn may lead to the development of laryngeal cancer over the years

Fortunately, many of the risk factors for laryngeal cancer concern lifestyle, which means that you can avoid them in order to lower your risk of developing this disease. The following are some suggestions you may want to keep in mind to prevent the occurrence of laryngeal cancer:

  • quitting smoking
  • limiting your alcohol consumption
  • having a diet rich in vitamins A and E
  • maintaining a good oral hygiene
  • seeking treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease

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