Laryngeal tumor can be benign or malignant. There are slight differences between the two types of benign tumors – papilloma (there are few) and polyps (usually there is only one). Both can be removed without permanent consequences; it seems they are caused by wrong (perhaps excessive) use of the vocal cords. Malignant tumors (cancers) occur mainly in heavy smokers, but very rarely in non-smokers.
Hoarseness is usually the only symptom. There are no symptoms similar to flu symptoms as with laryngitis. If the tumor is malignant, metastatic cancer can eventually make it difficult to breathe, and a growing bump can occur on the neck. In children, tumors in the larynx, because of the narrow airway through the larynx, often add a high, shrill sound to voice.
Hoarseness due to a benign tumor is usually temporary, but hoarseness due to cancer is permanent and gradually worsens. Since cancer is not painful and develops slowly, the patient won’t even notice it at first.
The frequency of the disease in men is about 15 times more common than in women. Benign tumors are less common; they generally occur in humans, such as singers, who use their vocal cords wrong or excessively.
The main danger lies in the fact that you can ignore hoarseness that slowly deteriorates until it’s too late for successful treatment of cancer of the larynx, which is almost always curable if diagnosed at an early stage. If not detected in time, it can be expanded locally or enter the bloodstream and create a secondary cancer (metastases) elsewhere in the body.
What to do?
Do not ignore unexplained changes in the voice. If you are hoarse more than a week or if hoarseness periodically returns, please consult your doctor. If there are no signs of inflammation in the throat, which accompanies laryngitis, the doctor will probably send you to a specialist who will examine the throat with special mirror. If he notices any swelling or abnormality, the specialist will probably perform endoscopy with biopsy to determine whether the tumor is malignant or not.
Benign tumors, whether papillomas or polyps, are usually removed by minor surgery under local anesthesia. Malignant tumors, if detected at an early stage, are generally treated – in many cases successfully – with radiotherapy. If the cancer is advanced, the larynx will be removed surgically. Even then, there is a 50% chance to heal. To beable to speak again you will have to work, possibly several months, with Phoniatry that will teach you how to use the esophagus as a substitute to larynx. Alternative, recently discovered method, consists in an operation that creates wing valve between the esophagus and trachea. Valve allows exit of air from the lungs, through the valve, and esophagus up where you create a voice votes. This is to avoid breathing in the stomach and “exhale” from the stomach to produce speech.