EAR, NOSE & THROAT
Tumors of the Voice Box
Tumors of the voice box are rare but have a major effect on your voice. When a tumor is found in the voice box, it makes your voice hoarse. Tumors on the voice box are one form of throat cancer. Throat cancer is rare but serious. According to the Atlas of Genetics and Cytogenetics in Oncology and Haematology only about 2-5% of malignant tumors found yearly are laryngeal tumors. There are three categories of laryngeal cancer; one of which is extremely uncommon. Although laryngeal cancer is rare, some factors can make your chances of being diagnosed with laryngeal cancer higher.
The voice box is not like a radio that sits in your throat; where you can tune it to change your voice. The voice box is the larynx. The larynx is the structure that houses the vocal cords. The vocal cords are two membranous flaps that sit on each side of the larynx. The vocal cords operate through vibrations. When air hits the vocal cords, they vibrate based on the strength and pressure of the air. Everyone’s voice is different. The difference in voice is dependent on the length and width of the vocal cords. Women have shorter vocal cords and a lack of an Adam’s apple which makes their voice higher.
Types of Throat Cancer
There are three categories of laryngeal cancer. The first form of vocal cord cancer is glottic cancer. Glottic cancer is known as true vocal cord cancer. This form of cancer is related to a tumor that sits on the vocal cords. Glottic cancer represents about 50-60% of all laryngeal cancer. The second type of laryngeal cancer is called supraglottic carcinoma. Supraglottic cancer comprises 30-40% of all laryngeal cancers. They are tumors in the upper part or free part of the larynx. It may even affect thyroid cartilage or the hyoid bone. The last form of laryngeal cancer is subglottic carcinoma. Subglottic cancer only represents about 5% of laryngeal cancer. The subglottic area extends from below the vocal cords to the trachea.
Factors for Laryngeal Cancer
Throat cancer is rarely diagnosed in those under the age of 40. Smoking is a major factor. Smoking is related to not only how many cigarettes you smoke a day but also how long you smoke. Cigarettes have chemicals that damage the larynx. More often than not, smoking leads to glottic and supraglottic carcinoma. Alcohol is a risk factor as well. Heavy drinkers are three times more likely to have larynx cancer than non-drinkers (Cancer Research UK). Acid reflux can damage the cells in the larynx leading to cancer. The larynx is lined with cells, and constant irritation of those cells may cause them to mutate.
HPV infection is a sexually transmitted disease, but it can also affect the larynx. HPV may cause polyps in the larynx. Immune deficiency makes you susceptible to all kinds of infections even laryngeal cancer. Genetics may play a part in laryngeal cancer as well. Specific types of cancer can run in the family. If laryngeal cancer runs in your family, you should get regular checkups to monitor tumor growth. Diet is always important. Poor diet denies the body of the nutrients it needs to keep your cells healthy. A diet high in fruits and vegetables nourish the body and lowers the risk of cancer. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are great for fighting cancer.
Treating Tumors of the Voice Box
Vocal cord cancer is treatable. There are some factors that make treatment nearly impossible. If cancer has spread throughout the body, the prognosis is not good. Very advanced vocal cord cancer also complicates treatment. Treatment is complicated when a patient has preexisting health concerns. An unhealthy person does not respond to treatment as well. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery are all forms of treatment. They may be done individually, or they may all be used together depending on the patient.
Diagnosing Tumors of the Voice Box
A cancer diagnosis is made through a biopsy. If you have a benign tumor, an ear, nose, and throat physician may remove it completely or just leave it if it is not too large and not be causing any problems. Prognosis for most laryngeal cancers is good. 80% of people diagnosed with glottic cancer live past five years. Five-year survival rate goes down to 50% for those with supraglottic cancer. The decrease in survival rate is related to a higher risk of cancer in the lymph nodes. Once cancer reaches the lymph nodes, treatment is not as effective.
Vocal cord tumors are not all cancerous. Some tumors may be benign. Any benign tumor may be removed without further treatment. Malignant tumors require treatment and in most cases removal. The vocal cords are a major component of voice. One of the biggest effects of vocal cord cancer is voice changes. The voice tends to have a hoarse tone and become lower. You may also have some difficulty swallowing. Early detection makes survival rates of laryngeal cancer much higher. If you notice a change in voice, weight loss, dysphagia, and a persistent cough or trouble breathing, see a physician. Do not ignore these symptoms. You can survive laryngeal cancer.
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