Larynx cancer

"The chances of cure for this disease range from 30 to 90%, depending on the extent."


Laryngeal cancer is a male-dominated disease related to exposure to carcinogens, mainly through tobacco consumption, which occurs in 94% of patients diagnosed with laryngeal cancer.

It ranks sixth in cancer mortality in Spain among men and fourth in potential years of life lost.


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What are the symptoms of laryngeal cancer?

The symptoms present in this disease differ according to the specific location of the tumor within the larynx: the glottis, the supraglottis and the subglottis.

In the glottis, the vocal cords are located, and therefore, any alteration of these will cause an alteration in the production of the voice that we call dysphonia. Dysphonia is therefore the main sign of cancer located on the vocal cords.

When the tumour is located in the supraglottis, it may not give early symptoms, and these originate with the tumour growth and the affectation of adjacent structures.

When they appear, usually they correspond to pain with the swallowing (odinofagia), pain radiated towards the ear (otalgia reflex) or dysphonia by extension of the growth towards the vocal cords.

The tumors with subglottic origin can be manifested like dysphonia by secondary affectation of the vocal cords or by respiratory difficulty, by occupation of the light to laringo-tracheal.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Dysphonia.
  • Painful swallowing.
  • Pain radiating to the ear.
  • Breathing difficulty.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

You may have cancer of the larynx

What are the causes?

Laryngeal cancer is clearly related to smoking and the amount of tobacco consumed. The carcinogens released in tobacco smoke are the origin of genetic alterations in the cells exposed to their action.

The genetic disorders are perpetuated in the daughter cells and cause alterations that over time result in morphological changes, which we call dysplasia.

According to the degree of cellular alteration in the epithelium covering the larynx, we classify dysplasia into mild, moderate and severe carcinoma in situ. If the cellular changes progress, the tumor infiltrates nearby tissues and we call it an infiltrating carcinoma.

What is the prognosis of laryngeal cancer?

Overall, the prognosis of the patient with laryngeal cancer is favorable compared to other types of tumors, although it varies according to the size and extension of the tumor at the time of diagnosis.

The one with the best prognosis is the glottic tumor (which affects the vocal cords), because it is usually diagnosed earlier and is less likely to metastasize. It is considered that survival after five years from the correct diagnosis and treatment of a glottic tumor varies between 90 and 95% in the smallest tumors and 50% in the largest.

In correctly treated supraglottic tumors, 5-year survival ranges from 80% in the smallest to 50% in the largest.

Subglottic tumors have the worst prognosis, with a 5-year survival of less than 40%.

How is larynx cancer diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made mainly in the physical examination carried out by the specialist.

There, the location and extension of the disease is assessed, both in the larynx and in relation to the possibility that the disease has spread to adjacent cervical nodal areas.

The clinical study of extension is sometimes completed with a radiological study using magnetic resonance or CT. Finally, the confirmation of the neoplastic nature of the lesion is done through a biopsy.

The prognosis of the disease is related to the extension of it, being the early diagnosis fundamental as far as the treatment options and the possibilities of cure are concerned.

How is larynx cancer treated?

The treatment of larynx cancer is mainly based on surgery and radiotherapy. The choice of one or another form of treatment depends on the location of the tumor, its local extension, the possible cervical nodal involvement, the age and the patient's own choice.

Surgical treatment sometimes makes it possible to preserve part of the larynx and thus maintain the function of the organ. In small tumors, another treatment option is radiotherapy, with which cure rates close to surgical treatment are obtained.

In those intermediate cases in which surgery involves the exeresis of the entire larynx, the treatment options can be extended to hyperfractionated radiotherapy or chemotherapy associated with radiotherapy.

In more advanced tumors, both in their laryngeal and nodal growth, the usual treatment is radical surgery and postoperative radiotherapy. 

Where do we treat it?


The Department of Otolaryngology
of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra

The Department of Otorhinolaryngology of the University of Navarra Clinic is a national and world reference in numerous highly specialized surgical procedures.

We have the latest technology and we perform all diagnostic tests in less than 48 hours in order to offer our patients the best solution in the shortest time possible.

We were one of the first centers in Spain to use robotic surgery in the surgical treatment with the Da Vinci® System. 

Organized in specialized units:

  • Otology - Hearing.
  • Rhinology - Nose.
  • Pharyngology - Throat.
  • Laryngology - Voice.
  • Balance disorders.
  • Head and neck problems.
Imagen de la fachada de consultas de la sede en Pamplona de la Clínica Universidad de Navarra

Why at the Clinica?

  • Experts in the treatment of hearing problems.
  • Pioneers in axillary surgery to avoid scarring.
  • National reference center in tissue sealing for tonsil removal.