Laryngeal cancer

Laryngeal cancer or larynx cancer affects the larynx, also known as the voice box. The cancers in this area will generally be squamous cell carcinoma - that means the cancer will develop in the soft skin which covers this part of the body.

Laryngeal cancer can affect the larynx in three distinct areas: the glottis, the supraglottis, subglottis - which are different areas of the larynx. As with Oropharyngeal cancer, there are several risk factors which increase your chances of developing cancer of larynx. This form of cancer is most prevalent in heavy smokers.

Sometimes people will refer laryngeal cancer as Vocal Cord Cancer - this is a more simplified name for cancer of the glottis. The most common form of cancer of larynx is Cancer of the Glottis, or vocal cord cancer. Cancer of the supraglottis (above the glottis) and subglottis (below the glottis) are also possible but they are very rare.


There are quite a few things that can be symptomatic of Laryngeal Cancer - please remember that these can also be symptoms for a lot of harmless illnesses too. The best thing you can do if you are worried is go to your doctor and explain why you are worried.

The chances are low that you will have cancer but it is always better to get checked as soon as possible.  All cancer treatment works better with early detection, so do not worry but DO get your doctor to check you over if you have any of these symptoms for more than three weeks:

Cancer of the glottis (Vocal Cord Cancer)

  • hoarseness - if you experience a hoarse voice with no obvious reason for a prolonged period of time you should get your GP to check you over
  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • pain in the throat

Cancer of the Supraglottis and Subglottis

  • hoarseness/voice changes
  • ear pain - occurs when the cancer damages nerves leading to the ear
  • throat pain
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty breathing

As you can see the symptoms can appear to be fairly common place and in most cases it will not be cancer. However, if you do have these symptoms for a prolonged period of time please make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can. You can find your nearest NHS GP here.  If you cannot find a GP near you there will be walk in clinics at hospitals which you can attend too.

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