Laryngeal & Hypopharyngeal Cancers - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Almost all cancers found in the larynx or hypopharynx develop from thin, flat cells called squamous cells found in the surface layer called the epithelium. Cancer that starts in this layer of cells is called squamous cell carcinoma or squamous cell cancer.
Most squamous cell cancers of the larynx and hypopharynx begin with a precancerous lesion called dysplasia. When viewed under a microscope, these cells look abnormal but do not look like cancer cells. Most of the time, dysplasia does not turn into cancer. It usually regresses without treatment, especially if the underlying cause (such as smoking) is stopped.
Most larynx and hypopharyngeal cancers are detected at more advanced stages, as they do not cause complaints unless they are in the pre-cancerous vocal cords. Sometimes dysplasia progresses to carcinoma. CIS, or carcinoma in-situ, is the earliest form of cancer. Most of these early cancers are treatable, but if CIS is left untreated, it can develop into an invasive squamous cell cancer that will destroy nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.
Minor salivary gland cancers: Some parts of the larynx and hypopharynx have small glands called minor salivary glands under their covering layer. These glands make mucus and saliva lubricate and moisturize the area. Cancer rarely develops in the cells of these glands.
Sarcomas: The shape of the larynx and hypopharynx is based on the connective tissue and cartilage framework. Cancers such as chondrosarcomas or synovial sarcomas can develop from the connective tissues of the larynx or hypopharynx, but this is extremely rare.
Melanomas: These cancers usually start in the skin, but rarely they can start on the inner (mucosal) surfaces of the body, such as in the larynx or hypopharynx.
Tobacco and alcohol use
Not enough feeding
Human papillomavirus infection
Genetic syndromes (such as Fanconi anemia)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Hoarseness or voice changes
- Persistent sore throat
- Persistent cough
- Pain with swallowing
- Swallowing problem
- Breathing problem
- Weight loss
- A lump or mass in the neck (due to the spread of cancer to nearby lymph nodes)
If hoarseness lasts more than two weeks without an apparent cause, it is recommended to apply for the examination.
Depending on the cancer stage and your overall health, different treatment options may be used alone or in combination. The most important factors to consider when creating your treatment plan are the location and stage of cancer. Your cancer care team will also consider your general health and personal preferences. The main focus of treatments is to try to save your larynx and voice if possible. Most experts do not recommend surgery to remove the larynx if there are no other options completely.
You can read more about cancer in the articles below: