© 2005-2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.
The larynx, sometimes called the voice box, is a tube-shaped organ in the neck that is important for breathing, talking, and swallowing. It is located at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. The front walls protrude from the neck to form what most people call the Adam's apple. Cancer of the larynx (laryngeal cancer) is one of the most common cancers of the head and neck.
The larynx consists of three parts, and cancer may occur in any of the following areas:
- Supraglottis, which is the area above the vocal cords
- Glottis, which is the middle section that holds the vocal cords
- Subglottis, which is the area below the vocal cords that connects the larynx to the windpipe
Because of the function and location of the larynx, cancer of the voice box and its treatment can affect breathing, talking, and eating. Larynx preservation therapy refers to treatment that maintains the function of the larynx. Examples of larynx preservation therapies include:
- Radiation therapy
- Chemoradiation therapy (giving radiation therapy along with chemotherapy)
- Partial laryngectomy (surgery that removes part of the larynx)
A total laryngectomy is surgery that removes the entire larynx. After a laryngectomy, patients can no longer speak using their vocal cords. For some patients, a total laryngectomy may be the best option to treat the cancer or a recurrence (return) of cancer.