Vocal cord cancer is very closely linked with a history of smoking. Precancerous lesions may appear as a white or red plaque (called leukoplakia or erythroplakia) on the vocal cord, and indicate that a biopsy or removal of the lesion needs to be done to rule-out the presence of cancer. Symptoms of vocal cord cancer include a sore throat, sensation of something stuck in throat, voice change, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing with associated weight loss, and the appearance of one or more lumps that can be felt in the neck.
HOW IS VOCAL CORD CANCER DIAGNOSED?
The following tests and procedures may be used:
• Physical exam of the throat and neck
• MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
• PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)
• Bone scan
• Barium swallow
• CT scan (CAT scan)
HOW IS VOCAL CORD CANCER TREATED?
Vocal cord cancer are nearly always curable with either vocal cord stripping, laser surgery, or radiation therapy. The patient is then watched closely to see if the cancer returns. If the cancer comes back after stripping or laser surgery, radiation can be used. Almost all people at this stage can be cured without extensive surgery. But it is important for them to realize that if they smoke, continuing to do so increases the risk that a new cancer will develop.
DID YOU KNOW?
Patients treated for vocal cord cancers are at the highest risk of recurrence in the first 2 to 3 years. Recurrences after 5 years are rare and usually represent new primary malignancies. Close, regular follow-up is crucial to maximize the chance for salvage. Careful clinical examination and repetition of any abnormal staging study are included in follow-up, along with attention to any treatment-related toxic effect or complication.