What is Larynx Cancer?
This is a very serious disease, and it is essential that any of the telltale symptoms lead to prompt investigation.
Treated early, results are excellent. But if left, the condition may be fatal.
Larynx Cancer Symptoms
The earliest symptom is hoarseness. “It should be a rule that every patient who has suffered from hoarseness for a period of three weeks without improvement should have the larynx examined by a competent laryngologist,” a government authority, Simpson Hall, states. Of course, if it is neglected, tragedy can soon result. “The difficulty constantly encountered in treatment of these patients is that treatment has been delayed, and the growth has spread too far before the advice of a specialist is sought.
This is especially unfortunate, as in the early stages the prognosis [future outlook’ is excellent if treatment is properly carried out; whereas in the later stages it is frequently hopeless.” Apart from hoarseness, there may be vague generalized symptoms from other sites. There may be some local discomfort, a feeling as though one wishes to clear the throat often, a slight irritating cough, feeling a lump on swallowing.
There may be discomfort referred to the ear, or a swelling in the neck. If the growth is very extensive, there may be swallowing or breathing difficulties.
Larynx Cancer Treatment
Diagnosis and treatment are essentially in the hands of the specialist, the ENT surgeon. If the cancer is confined to one cord, the results are highly favorable. “The five-year cure rate is about 95 per cent after surgery or after irradiation in expert hands with modern methods.” As irradiation leaves a normal voice, it is considered to be the treatment of choice. It may be carried out in the form of external irradiation. If this is not available, surgical intervention is the next best form of therapy. The diseased cord is removed. After surgery, the voice is often better than may be expected. A fibrous band often grows in to replace the cord, permitting relatively good speech.
If the cancer has extended beyond the cords, more extensive surgery may be necessary, and total removal of the voice box carried out. This is called a total laryngectomy. After this the patient has a permanent tracheotomy, and has to learn to speak all over again. A tube is placed into the windpipe and the hole is a permanent one. Often speech therapy may assist. In many countries, “Lost Cord” clubs exist to give practical and psychological assistance to persons involved in this form of surgery. Much is now available in the way of assistance after the operation is over, and the person is trying to rehabilitate himself.