What is Laryngeal Cancer?

What is Laryngeal Cancer?

Laryngeal cancer is cancer of the larynx, also known as the voice box. The larynx is located in the throat and helps you breathe, swallow and speak. Laryngeal (larynx) cancer is relatively common—the lifetime risk of developing it is about one in 190 for men and one in 830 for women.

Types of Laryngeal Cancer

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): most laryngeal cancers are SCCs, which develop in the flat squamous cells lining the larynx
  • Sarcoma occurs in the connective tissues
  • Lymphoma occurs in the lymphatic tissue
  • Adenocarcinoma occurs in the glandular cells
  • Neuroendocrine carcinoma occurs in the cells that make hormones

Stages of Laryngeal Cancer


Laryngeal cancer is assigned a stage based on how large the tumor is, where it has grown and whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant parts of the body. Cancer is assigned a stage from 0 to IV:

  • Stage 0: Also known as carcinoma in situ (CIS), this is the earliest stage of cancer
  • Stage I: An early stage laryngeal cancer in which the vocal cords can still move normally and cancer cells have not spread to lymph nodes or distant organs
  • Stage II: An early laryngeal cancer that involves more than one area of the larynx (the supraglottis, glottis, or subglottis)
  • Stage III: An advanced stage of laryngeal cancer in which the tumor has grown into the fatty tissue of the larynx and vocal cords may be affected
  • Stage IV: Most commonly, this means the tumor has grown through the thyroid cartilage and/or is growing into tissues beyond the larynx (such as the thyroid gland, trachea, esophagus, tongue muscles, or neck muscles). It can also mean spread to lymph nodes and/or distant body structures.


Symptoms & Signs of Laryngeal Cancer


Early stages of laryngeal cancer may not cause any symptoms, and when symptoms do occur, they can be mistaken for signs of another condition. The expert oncologists at NewYork-Presbyterian are well-trained in spotting the signs of laryngeal cancer, confirming a diagnosis and forming a prompt treatment plan.

Symptoms of laryngeal cancer include:

  • Sore throat
  • Vocal changes like hoarseness
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • A lump in the neck or throat

Some symptoms of laryngeal cancer require immediate medical attention:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Breathing that is high-pitched or noisy
  • Coughing up blood

What Causes Laryngeal Cancer?


There is no known cause for laryngeal cancer, but there are some factors, such as smoking tobacco, that can affect your risk of developing the disease.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Some behaviors and other factors can increase your risk of developing laryngeal cancer. Factors that can affect your chances of developing the disease include:

  • Age: laryngeal cancer is more common in people over the age of 40
  • Gender: men are four times more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than women
  • Alcohol use
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Occupational exposure



If laryngeal cancer progresses, it can cause complications. Possible complications include:

  • Airway obstructions
  • Loss of speech
  • Hardening of neck skin
  • Neck disfigurement
  • Difficulty swallowing



While it is impossible to prevent laryngeal cancer completely, there are some steps you can take to lessen your risk of developing the disease and increase the likelihood of catching the cancer early if it does occur. These include:

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Avoid tobacco products
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • See your doctor promptly if you notice any symptoms
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Laryngeal Cancer Care

Our expert team of oncologists is specially trained to recognize the signs of this condition early, giving you the best chance to diagnose and receive laryngeal cancer treatment before it becomes more dangerous. At NewYork-Presbyterian, we understand your concerns and customize a care plan to eliminate your cancer while preserving your function, appearance, and quality of life.