laryngeal cancer

Laryngeal cancer summary

Laryngeal cancer is the disease that hit the former president of Brazil, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. It is a tumor that starts in the larynx, which is an organ located in the throat region. Laryngeal cancer corresponds to 2% of the total number of neoplasms and represents about 25% of cases of tumors and head and neck. Estimates for 2012, according to INCA, are 6110 new cases in 2012, with a risk of around 6 cases/100,000 inhabitants.

The causes of laryngeal cancer are still not completely known, but it is known that factors such as smoking, excessive use of alcoholic beverages, contact with pollution, among others, increase the risk of developing the disease. Some people are more likely to develop this type of cancer, such as smokers, patients with HPV infection in the oropharyngeal region, patients with family cases of laryngeal cancer, etc.

Symptoms of the disease include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, feeling of “lump” in the throat and voice change. The diagnosis is usually made with a biopsy by a specialist doctor. In addition, imaging tests help define the size of the tumor and its extension.

When not properly treated, laryngeal cancer can lead to loss of voice and metastasis. The treatment takes place in 3 lines: surgery (to remove the tumor or the larynx), radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Phytotherapy helps, mainly, to combat the side effects of traditional treatments. Likewise, homeopathy helps to improve the patient’s quality of life.

It is important that patients with laryngeal cancer have an open conversation with their doctor and family and strictly follow the treatment. As preventive measures, it is recommended that the patient avoid smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, include fruits, vegetables and fiber in their diet and avoid being in contact with air pollutants or chemical solvents.


Laryngeal cancer was the disease that hit the former president of Brazil, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. It is characterized by being a neoplasm that affects the cells and parts that make up the larynx. The larynx is an organ formed by muscles, cartilage and membranes and is located in the throat region, between the trachea and the base of the tongue. The larynx is divided into 3 parts: glottis, supraglottis and infraglottis.

Laryngeal cancer can reach any portion or cell type that composes it, but the most common cases are squamous cell carcinomas and normally originate in the glottis.


Laryngeal cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect the head and neck region. About 25% of cancers that affect the head and neck region correspond to laryngeal cancer and this cancer corresponds to 2% of the total number of neoplasms [Source: INCA].

Of the total cases of laryngeal cancer, about 70% affect the glottis and true vocal cords. The remainder of cancer cases originate elsewhere, such as the supraglottic (above the vocal cords) or infraglottic (below the vocal cords) region. In about 90%, the most prevalent histological type is squamous cell carcinoma.

And according to the National Cancer Institute (INCA), in 2010 there were 3189 deaths in men and 429 in women due to laryngeal cancer. The estimate for 2012 is 6110 new cases of the disease, with an estimated risk of 6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Still according to INCA, the incidence of laryngeal tumor according to the region of Brazil are:

– North: 2 cases/100 thousand inhabitants.

– Northeast: 4 cases/100 thousand inhabitants.

– Center-West: 5 cases/100 thousand inhabitants.

– Southeast: 8 cases/100 thousand inhabitants.

– South: 9 cases/100,000 inhabitants.


Laryngeal cancer originates when the tissue cells that make up this organ begin to grow in an uncontrolled manner. Scientists still do not know exactly the causes that favor the formation of laryngeal cancer, but it is believed that factors that cause mutation in cells favor the appearance of the disease. Among the probable causes of laryngeal cancer, the following stand out:

– Tobacco, regardless of the route of inhalation: pipe, cigarette, cigar, etc. It is noteworthy in this respect that passive smoking is also identified as one of the causes of laryngeal cancer;

– Alcohol: alcohol, especially when associated with smoking, can cause the onset of laryngeal cancer;

– Human Papillomavirus: HPV infections in the throat region increase the risk of laryngeal cancer;

– Dry climate and air pollution;

– Consumption of very hot drinks or foods that injure the throat.

Groups of risk

The main risk groups for developing laryngeal cancer are:

– Smokers : the tobacco consumed by smokers (cigarettes, pipes, etc.) is one of the main risk factors for the development of the disease.

– Patients with HPV infection: the human papillomavirus can infect the throat region and increase the chances of cancer of the larynx and mouth.

– Patients who make excessive use of alcohol: alcohol, especially when associated with smoking, damages the cells of the larynx and can lead to the development of cancer.

– Patients with poor oral hygiene.

– Patients exposed to asbestos.

– Patients with a diet low in fruits and vegetables, as these contain antioxidants that help prevent free radicals that damage cells.

– Patients with a family history of cancer of the larynx, throat, mouth or pharynx.


The most common symptoms of laryngeal cancer are:

– Cough ;

– Hoarseness, which indicates a glottic or infraglottic tumor;

– Difficulty swallowing;

– Sensation of a foreign body in the throat, such as a “lump”;

– Sore throat ;

– Speech difficulties;

– Change in voice;

– Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea).

If you have any risk factors for the disease and have these symptoms, see a doctor.


The diagnosis of laryngeal cancer is made by a specialist doctor, the oncologist. He will examine the symptoms presented by the patient and will make a biopsy of the laryngeal tissue to verify if it really is cancer and which cell type is affected. In addition, the doctor may indicate imaging tests to see the dimensions of the tumor mass and which regions are affected. Some exams are:

– X-ray of the throat;

– Nuclear magnetic resonance;

– Computed tomography;

– Laryngoscopy or endoscopy.


If laryngeal cancer is not treated properly, it can have some complications, such as:

– Impairment of voice and speech, due to destruction of the vocal cords;

– Swallowing difficulties, which can lead the patient to eat poorly and have complications resulting from this, such as weight loss, weakness, malnutrition, etc.;

– Dyspnea, which can disturb the patient’s sleep;

– Metastasis, which is characterized by the spread of cancer to other organs.


Treatment for laryngeal cancer can use 3 different approaches:


Surgery for the treatment of laryngeal cancer depends on where the tumor is located and the stage of the cancer. When the cancer is at an early stage, that is, still confined to just one portion of the larynx, the doctor may perform surgery to remove just the tumor mass.

If the tumor has spread to other parts of the throat, the doctor may remove part or all of the larynx, a procedure known as a laryngectomy. Breathing in this case is possible due to a tracheostomy, a cavity in the throat that allows air to flow. Even with the total removal of the larynx, there are rehabilitation techniques that allow the patient to recover his voice and speech.

If the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, the doctor may perform surgery to remove the affected nodes and thus contain the cancer.


Radiation therapy is usually combined with chemotherapy and surgery to make the tumor mass shrink. In this type of treatment, the tumor is bombarded with high-energy rays so that as many cells as possible die and the mass shrinks and can be easily removed by surgery.

A new technique is the implantation of a source of radiation inside the patient’s body, known as brachytherapy.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill tumor cells. In this regard, some of the drugs used are: cyclophosphamide, cetuximab, alkylating agents, vincristine, vinblastine, etc.

The goal of chemotherapy is to eliminate the largest number of tumor cells and thus end the disease. Chemotherapy treatment usually lasts from weeks to several months, depending on the tumor stage and location. The combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is normally used in cases of advanced tumors and to preserve the removal of the larynx.

Herbal medicine

Currently, there is no herbal medicine indicated for laryngeal cancer. However, researchers claim that a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables and legumes helps fight different types of cancer, including laryngeal cancer.

In addition, the use of medicinal plants may be indicated by the doctor to improve many of the symptoms experienced by the patient due to cancer and also to alleviate the side effects of conventional treatments (chemotherapy and radiotherapy). Some of the featured plants are:

– Melissa , indicated to improve gastrointestinal effects;

– Chamomile , indicated to improve gastrointestinal symptoms and as a tranquilizer;

– Valerian , indicated to improve the quality of sleep;

– Fennel , indicated for stomach problems;

– Bilberry , indicated to improve liver functions and to whet the appetite.

There are many other plants with different functions that can improve the patient’s quality of life. Talk to your doctor and see your indications.

laryngeal cancer tips

Below are some tips on how to deal with laryngeal cancer:

– Talk to your doctor about your treatment. If the side effects are difficult to bear, talk to the medical team so that medications are administered to lessen the effects.

– Do not miss chemotherapy sessions. They are important and the lack can lead to cancer resistance to treatment.

– If your case involves removal of the larynx (laryngectomy), seek specialized treatment for voice recovery. Even with the removal of the voice box, it is possible to speak again.

– Seek to do activities that give you pleasure, such as music, dancing, painting, etc. They improve the quality of life and vision of the patient in the face of his illness.

– Always seek support from friends and family. They will be able to support you in difficult times.


Some preventive measures can be adopted to avoid laryngeal cancer:

– Avoid smoking. Tobacco is known to be one of the risk factors for the disease. This includes secondhand smoke;

– If you drink, drink moderately. Excessive alcohol consumption favors the appearance of laryngeal tumors;

– Avoid being in contact with pollution. Wear masks to face the polluted air of big cities;

– Maintain good oral hygiene;

– Have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, they help fight factors that damage cells and cause cancer;

– If you work with carcinogenic chemicals, such as organic solvents, wear suitable masks to avoid inhaling these vapors that can damage the airways.

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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