Diagnosis of Laryngeal Cancer
UT Southwestern’s experienced cancer specialists conduct a
thorough evaluation, which includes a:
- Physical exam
- Discussion of personal and
family medical history
- Discussion of symptoms and
To confirm a diagnosis, our doctors might recommend one or
more tests, such as:
We sometimes use a scope (a thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera), which
is inserted through the nose for a closer look into the throat.
Similar to a laryngoscopy, this test uses a scope with a video camera to record
the larynx as the patient produces various sounds. We use videostroboscopy to
view vibration abnormalities that can help detect cancer and determine the size
and location of a tumor.
swallow: The patient swallows liquid barium, a substance that shows up on
X-rays, and then X-rays are taken. Barium swallows can show abnormalities in
the throat and evaluate swallowing.
tomography (CT) scan: CT uses specialized X-rays with or
without a contrast agent to produce cross-sectional 3D images of the throat.
- Magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) scan: MRI uses radio waves and a strong
magnet, with or without a contrast agent, to produce detailed images of the throat.
MRI can also show whether cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.
- Positron emission tomography (PET)/CT scan: Using small amounts of radioactive
materials and a special camera, PET scans produce highly detailed images that
can detect cancerous cells. At UT Southwestern, we use combined PET and CT
scanning equipment to produce enhanced images that can help detect abnormal
tissue that might be cancerous. PET scanning shows bodily functions such as
blood flow and sugar metabolism, and CT scans provide detailed anatomical
information for organs, bones, soft tissue, and blood vessels.
- Biopsy: Our
doctors take a small tissue sample that a pathologist analyzes under a
microscope for the presence of cancer. We perform biopsies using a needle or
during a laryngoscopy, using a special tool on the scope.
Treatment for Laryngeal Cancer
Treatment options vary based on the stage of cancer and its
size, location, and whether it has spread. Our doctors also work to preserve
the larynx whenever possible. The most common treatments for laryngeal cancer
are surgery and radiation therapy.
We use the following treatment options for laryngeal cancer,
sometimes in combination:
Surgery: Patients with early-stage laryngeal cancer might need only surgery,
whereas advanced cancers might require more comprehensive treatments given
after performing surgery, known as adjuvant therapy. Depending on the extent of
the cancer, surgical options include:
- Cordectomy to remove all or part of the vocal cords
- Partial laryngectomy to remove part of the larynx, which can
preserve the ability to talk
- Total laryngectomy to remove the entire larynx and create a new
opening for breathing, requiring patients to learn a new way to speak
- Thyroidectomy to remove all or part of the thyroid gland, if cancer has spread there
- Neck dissection to remove one or more lymph nodes or other tissues in the neck, if cancer
has spread there
therapy: Our doctors use radiation, treatment with
high-energy waves such as X-rays or gamma rays, to treat cancer. Radiation or
surgery is usually the first treatment option for laryngeal cancer, and these
therapies can treat and sometimes definitively cure it. Radiation therapy can
destroy cancer cells left after surgery, and it can also treat inoperable
Anticancer medications work to destroy cancer cells and prevent them from
spreading. Sometimes we use chemotherapy after radiation therapy or surgery to
destroy as many cancer cells as possible. Chemotherapy can also treat laryngeal
cancer that has spread to other areas of the body (metastatic) or cancer that
comes back after treatment (recurrent).
Chemotherapy given at the same time as radiation therapy is known as
chemoradiation. We use it whenever possible to help patients avoid a laryngectomy
(removal of the larynx) and preserve the voice and swallowing ability.
This type of medication enhances the immune system’s natural ability to
destroy cancer cells. Sometimes we use chemoradiation as adjuvant therapy after
performing surgery or radiation or for metastatic,or recurrent cancer.
therapy: Certain anticancer medications target a specific characteristic of
a cancer cell, which can be detected through specialized testing. People whose
cancers have these characteristics can be treated with targeted therapy,
usually in combination with radiation or chemotherapy. Sometimes we use
targeted therapy as adjuvant therapy after performing surgery or radiation or
for metastatic or recurrent cancer.
surgery: Patients with advanced laryngeal
cancer might need reconstruction after cancer surgery. Our plastic
surgery and ENT experts work together to restore swallowing and other oral
functions for a more natural appearance of the throat and neck.
For patients who are having radiation therapy for laryngeal cancer, we recommend having
any necessary dental work done before treatment. Radiation treatment slows
healing and can cause other side effects. Learn more about cancer
and transplant dental care.
At UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer
Center, patients have access to every available treatment option, delivered
by the most experienced head and neck cancer specialists in Dallas. Find out
more about all the options we offer for head
and neck cancer treatment.
We offer a variety of head
and neck cancer support services for patients and their families, such
As a medical research institution, UT Southwestern frequently
and neck cancer clinical trials, giving our patients access to the latest treatments.
Patients should speak with their doctors about the availability of clinical