Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal Cancer


Laryngeal cancer arises in the larynx (voice box). It is the second most common type of head and neck cancer. An estimated 12,000 new cases of laryngeal cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.

The larynx is located at the top of the trachea (windpipe). It contains two bands of muscle called vocal cords, which vibrate as air passes through them to make speech. The larynx also prevents food from entering the lungs.

Laryngeal Cancer Symptoms

The most common symptoms of laryngeal cancer include:

  • hoarseness
  • a lump in the neck due to an enlarged lymph node
  • ear pain
  • difficulty swallowing

Laryngeal Cancer Risk Factors

Tobacco and alcohol use — especially the combination of the two — are the most common risk factors for laryngeal cancer.

Additional risk factors include:

  • workplace exposure to wood and metal dusts, asbestos, paint fumes, and other chemical inhalants
  • a diet low in vitamins A and E
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV)

People with aplastic anemia, a blood disorder associated with certain hereditary conditions, also have a higher risk of developing laryngeal cancer.

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Laryngeal Cancer Treatment

The goals of the treatment of laryngeal cancer are to:

  • cure the cancer
  • preserve your appearance and voice
  • prevent the cancer from coming back

The extent and depth of the cancer guides your plan of care. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of approaches.

Laryngeal Cancer Surgery

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Meet the MSK throat cancer team of doctors, surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, and other specialists who provide personalized care from diagnosis through treatment for people with throat cancer.
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For early-stage cancer, a head and neck surgeon may remove the tumor using an endoscopic approach called transoral laser microsurgery. If laryngeal cancer cannot be easily removed with a minimally invasive procedure, your surgeon may need to perform a traditional open surgery.

At MSK, our surgeons offer unparalleled skill and experience in removing laryngeal cancer. We take innovative approaches to preserve your appearance and the functions of your throat.

Learn more about our expertise in throat cancer surgery.

Laryngeal Cancer Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy for cancer of the larynx involves aiming high-energy beams of particles at the tumor. When the particles reach the tumor, they can destroy cancer cells by damaging their DNA.

Radiation is often the primary treatment for people with early-stage laryngeal cancer. Chemotherapy is sometimes given in combination with radiation. This approach is called chemoradiation. It can enhance the effectiveness of your care.

The radiation therapy team at Memorial Sloan Kettering is highly experienced in caring for people with all stages of laryngeal cancer. We work closely with other members of your care team and will customize a treatment plan so precise that it factors in the size and shape of the tumor to the millimeter. Our goal is not only to eliminate cancer cells but also to prevent the side effects of treatment.

Jose’s Story about Laryngeal Cancer
When a biopsy revealed laryngeal cancer, Jose flew across the country from Arizona to New York for radiation therapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Drug Therapies for Advanced Laryngeal Cancer

People with advanced disease may receive drug therapies such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy.

At MSK, our medical oncologists (the doctors who treat cancer using drug therapies) work with you to create a customized treatment plan that fits your needs and leads to the best possible outcome for you.

Our medical oncologists bring extraordinary skill to caring for people with advanced laryngeal cancer. We have deep knowledge of the newest clinical trials for laryngeal cancer. These studies may give you access to advanced therapies years before they’re available elsewhere.

Find an overview of drug therapies for head and neck cancer.

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