The upper part of the trachea is the larynx where the vocal cords are found. The vocal cords meet together and vibrate properly, so if there is change in the voice, it indicates early symptom. Tumor in the larynx starts within the vocal nerves or cords. Hoarseness is frequently the initial sign of cancer in the larynx or voice box. If hoarseness is experienced for more than one month, it is it is advised that the affected person should see a doctor who is a specialist on ear, nose, and throat (ENT) ailments.
Occasionally, cancer may begin in a portion of the voice box or larynx which not adjacent to the vocal nerves or cords. In this instance, there will be no change in the voice. The initial sign could be a swelling within the neck or throat, or there is pain or discomfort in swallowing. Sometimes, there is constant breathlessness or earache as initial signs.
Laryngeal cancer can not be diagnosed without undergoing series of tests or x-rays. The doctor will refer the patient to see a specialist on ENT (ear, nose and throat). Then the ENT specialist will take the complete medical history and examine the patient. The doctor will check the neck for any presence of enlarged glands. The specialist will then examine the larynx with the use an endoscope (an elastic tube which has a light at the end). The instrument goes into the throat by passing through the nose. This can be uncomfortable, but the throat must be sprayed initially in order to anesthetize the area.
When the doctor sees any abnormal or unusual thing in the throat, or if he can not see the larynx visibly through the endoscope or mirror, the patient is admitted to the hospital for thorough examination of the larynx under general anesthesia. While the patient is under anesthesia, the doctor may be able to see the larynx completely by the use of an endoscope. If any section looks abnormal, a biopsy is done, meaning, a very tiny portion of the tissue is taken away and examined by the use of microscope.
Staging of tumor refers to describe the dimension of the tumor and extent it has scattered outside where it has started. The grade of the tumor refers on how the irregular cells of the tumor appear in the microscope. Grading of cancer provides an idea how rapid the tumor may grow.
Identifying the grade and stage of the cancer are very essential. The doctor may decide what kind of treatment is best for the patient. The grade and stage of tumors may help the doctor to expect how the tumor may behave, how it can react to treatment, also what are chances of the cure.
The TNM staging system is commonly for laryngeal cancer. TNM means tumor, node and metastasis.
T – Refers to the size of tumor
N – Describes whether the tumors have scattered to lymph nodes
M – Describes if the tumor has scattered to other areas of the body (metastatic or secondary cancer)
The accurate TNM system intended for cancer of the larynx depends on what portion of the larynx is affected by the cancer.
Laryngeal cancer has three grades:
– Grade I (low grade or well differentiated). The tumor cells look similar to the usual cells in the larynx
– Grade II (intermediate grade or moderately differentiated). The tumor cells appear less resembling the usual cells in the larynx.
– Grade III (high grade or poorly differentiated). The tumor cells appear abnormal and dissimilar from usual cells of the larynx.