Laryngeal cancer is a relatively rare tumor that affects males in 80% of cases. Cancers of the larynx account for approximately 2-5% of diagnosed cancers. Most cases occur between the ages of 50 and 70.
Air passes through the pharynx and then the larynx on the way to the windpipe (trachea) and into the lungs. Food passes through the pharynx on the way to the esophagus. The larynx has a small piece of tissue over it, called the epiglottis, to keep food from going into it or into the air passages.
The larynx contains the vocal cords, which vibrate and make sound when air is directed against them. The sound echoes through the pharynx, mouth, and nose to make a person's voice.
There are three main parts of the larynx: the glottis (the middle part of the larynx where the vocal cords are located); the supraglottis (the tissue above the glottis); and the subglottis (the tissue below the glottis). The subglottis connects to the trachea, which takes air to the lungs.
A diagnosis of laryngeal cancer does not always mean surgical removal of the entire larynx. Depending on the size, location, and time of cancer detection, one or more of the following approaches may be used: radiation therapy, chemotherapy, partial laryngectomy. In these cases, voice may be preserved although its quality may not be normal.
In other cases, total laryngectomy – with or without radiation therapy or chemotherapy – may be the only life-saving solution. During this operation, a new route for breathing is surgically created. The larynx-end of the windpipe (trachea) is connected to a hole (stoma) that is made in the neck. Rather than using the mouth and the nose, the person with the laryngectomy will breathe through this stoma.
In smokers, heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of laryngeal cancer by approximately 75%.
Smoking is the major cause of this cancer with approximately 82% of cases attributed to it. The risk of developing laryngeal cancer is approximately 10-fold greater for a male and 8-fold greater for a female as compared to never-smokers. The risks are directly proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked. People who stop smoking can greatly reduce their risk of developing cancer of the larynx, as well as cancer of the lung, mouth, pancreas, bladder, and esophagus.
Study subjects who ate two or more servings of fish weekly had a much lower risk for esophageal, stomach, colon, rectum, and pancreatic cancers than those who avoided fish. In fact, the rates of these types of cancer were 30-50% lower among fish eaters. High fish consumption was also associated with lower risks for cancers of the larynx (30% lower risk), endometrial cancer (20% lower risk), and ovarian cancer (30% lower risk).
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