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At UT Southwestern Medical Center, specialists in our Voice Center work closely with our cancer specialists to provide expert care for people with vocal cord cancer. Our team works quickly to detect and diagnose cancer to begin treatment as soon as possible for the best possible results.

Collaborative Care for Vocal Cord Cancer

Cancer of the vocal cords, also known as vocal fold carcinoma, begins as small areas of abnormal cells that can grow out of control. If diagnosed in its early stages, before it has spread to other parts of the larynx (voice box), vocal cord cancer is highly curable.

Our multidisciplinary team includes fellowship-trained laryngologists, speech-language pathologists, and cancer specialists. We bring our expertise together to provide exceptional care for people with vocal cord cancer and other types of head and neck cancer. Combining leading-edge treatment with a compassionate approach, we provide a personalized patient experience for all our patients.

Causes of Vocal Cord Cancer

Causes and risk factors for cancer of the vocal cords include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption 

Symptoms of Vocal Cord Cancer

The main symptom of vocal cord cancer is hoarseness. Other symptoms include:

  • Chronic sore throat, sometimes with ear pain
  • Cough that can bring up blood
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lumps in the neck that can be felt
  • Sensation of something stuck in the throat
  • Voice changes
  • Unintentional weight loss

Diagnosis of Vocal Cord Cancer

At UT Southwestern, our experienced laryngologists in the Voice Center conduct a thorough evaluation, which includes a:

  • Physical exam, with an inspection of the vocal cords
  • Review of personal medical history
  • Discussion of symptoms

To examine the vocal cords, our specialists use:

  • Laryngoscopy: An exam using a narrow tube, either flexible or rigid, with a light and camera inserted through the nose
  • Videostroboscopy: An exam using a telescope-like camera with a flashing light that provides a magnified, slow-motion view of the vocal cords as they vibrate

If our laryngologists identify areas of abnormal tissue during the exam, we can take a biopsy (small tissue sample) to analyze under a microscope for signs of cancer. 

Treatment for Vocal Cord Cancer

If our laryngologists confirm a diagnosis of cancer, we work with UT Southwestern cancer specialists to coordinate treatment. Patients might need one or a combination of these options:

  • In-office laser treatments to remove tumors
  • Surgery to remove tumors
  • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells, prevent cells from spreading, and shrink tumors
  • Chemotherapy, which is medication that travels through the bloodstream to treat cancer cells

Find out more about head and neck cancer treatment at UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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