What Is Laryngeal Cancer?
Laryngeal cancer occurs when normal cells change and grow uncontrollably forming a cancerous tumor in the larynx, which is located in the neck. It is about 2 inches long and looks like a tube. It's also called the voice box. You use the larynx when you breathe, talk, and swallow. The larynx is located at the top of the windpipe called the trachea. Its walls are made mainly of cartilage. The thyroid cartilage in the front of the larynx is commonly referred to as the Adam’s apple.
The larynx has 3 main parts:
Glottis. This is where the vocal cords are.
Supraglottis. This is located above the vocal cords.
Subglottis. This is below the vocal cords, where the larynx connects to the trachea.
When you breathe in, air travels through the larynx, down the trachea, and into your lungs. The air travels the other way when you breathe out. The vocal cords are relaxed when you breathe, and air moves between them without making any sound. When you talk, the vocal cords tighten up and move closer together. Air from the lungs is forced between them and makes them vibrate, producing sound. The tongue, lips, and teeth turn this sound into words.
Just behind the trachea and the larynx is the food pipe called the esophagus. The esophagus is a tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. The openings of the esophagus and the larynx are very close to each other. A flap called the epiglottis covers the larynx to keep food from going down the wrong tube when you swallow.
If cancer cells spread outside the larynx, they usually spread first to the lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) in the neck. Cancer cells can also spread to the back of the tongue, other parts of the throat and neck, and even other parts of the body, including the lungs, the liver, bones, and brain. When cancer cells from the larynx spread to distant parts of the body, it is called metastatic laryngeal cancer.