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Reviewed by

Team Resolve

February 3, 2022

Laryngeal Cancer and Rehabilitation

Larynx or commonly known as the ‘voice box’ is an organ situated behind the throat and connects the nasal cavity to the windpipe. Any uncontrolled or unregulated growth of the cells of any structure in the larynx is what we call laryngeal cancer. With an increase in alcohol and tobacco consumption, incidence of laryngeal cancer is on the rise. This necessitates educating oneself about the risk factors, symptoms, treatment and rehabilitation of this disease to be able to intervene at an early stage.

Table of Contents

Who is at risk?

Even though anyone can develop laryngeal cancer, it is quite commonly seen in elderly males. Various other modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors influence the probability of an individual landing up with laryngeal cancer, like:
    • Smoking: The most significant risk factor for laryngeal cancer is smoking. The toxic constituents of the smoke directly irritate the laryngeal structures and repeated insults lead to development of malignancy.
    • Alcohol Consumption: Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption, specially if coupled with smoking is another major risk factor.
    • Occupation: Individuals exposed to paint fumes and those working in metal or coal industries are at a higher risk.
    • HPV infection: Human Papillomavirus infections can also lead to laryngeal cancers.
    • Obesity: BMI falling above the normal range is a risk factor for developing malignancies.
    • Nutrition: Increased intake of smoked foods and foods with additives can be a risk factor.
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Other diseases: Past history of other head and neck cancers, and Fanconi’s anemia are also associated with laryngeal cancers.

Prevention of laryngeal cancer

It is rightly said that prevention is better than cure. Small steps taken today can reduce suffering years later.
  • Cessation of smoking with immediate effect can reduce the risk many-fold.
  • Moderation or cessation of alcohol consumption can be a major step in preventing laryngeal cancer.
  • Daily exercise can help lead a healthy lifestyle and also aids in reducing weight.
  • Dietary modifications to reduce smoked and junk foods and increasing intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is recommended. Antioxidants are known to reduce the risk of cancers as well.
  • Using proper protective equipment in high-risk occupations can help prevent the risk of malignancies.

What are the symptoms?

  • Change in voice: Hoarseness or any other prominent changes in the voice, usually noticed by the caretakers of the individuals is one of the earliest symptoms in laryngeal cancer.
  • Dysphagia: Difficulty in swallowing food or water is called dysphagia. It can be associated with pain in swallowing exactly.
  • Neck Swelling: Any cancer of the head and neck can present with a neck swelling or lump, which needs to be examined by a doctor.
  • Sore throat and associated earache: Throat pain is commonly referred to the ear and this presentation should raise alarm.
  • Persistent cough and breathlessness
  • Wheezing: A high pitched whistling sound heard on breathing is called wheezing and it should raise suspicions. 

When to contact a doctor?

Early diagnosis can lead to a better outcome for the patient. It is advised to approach a doctor in any of the following conditions:
    • Hoarseness or change in voice for more than 3 weeks
    • Difficulty in swallowing
    • Any neck swelling seen or felt should always be checked out
    • Difficulty in breathing

What can be done at home?

Taking small steps at home can make a big difference for the patient’s physical, mental and social health.

Physical Therapy

  • Breathing Exercises: To help regain the body strength and alleviate anxiety, breathing exercises are recommended to be practiced daily. While sitting with the back straight, inhale air slowly through the nose, hold and release through the nose. Repeat this multiple times. 
  • Stretching: Stretching helps increase blood flow to the body, improving healing and also alleviates anxiety. 
  • Aerobic Exercises: Brisk walking, jogging, swimming can help regain strength and also helps reduce weight. Care should be taken to not injure oneself and to start a new exercise under guidance of a therapist.
  • Strength Training: Strength training exercises can help regain normalcy in life and make an individual capable of returning back to daily chores.

Note: Always consult a therapist before starting any exercise. Stop any activity which may cause discomfort.

Speech Therapy

One of the most common outcomes is the patient losing his/her speech in the treatment. It is important to lend emotional support to cope with the loss of a basic function as well as strive to learn how to adapt to it.
    • Esophageal Speech: Swallowing air in the food pipe (esophagus), closing the mouth and then expelling the air out can aid in some articulation. It is to be noted that it takes time to learn how to speak via the food pipe and the resulting voice tends to be different from the original voice.
    • Prosthesis: Various Prosthesis are available which when applied to the external opening made on the throat, can give some speech to the patient when air is forced through it. It is the best method recommended to patients as of yet.
    • In cases where the voice box is not extensively damaged, basic voice exercises like enunciating vowels, stretching out syllables etc. can be recommended.
    • If required, the patient and his/her family can learn sign language to facilitate communication.
  • Mental Health

    A diagnosis of a disease like laryngeal cancer not only affects the patient but also his near and dear ones. To ensure holistic treatment, it is important to address the mental health aspect of the disease, offering complete emotional support to the individual as well as the caretakers.

    • Laryngeal Cancer can lead to loss of speech. It is important to counsel and emotionally support the patient, helping him/her in learning sign language or how to speak via speech valves (given while making an opening (stoma) on the throat after the larynx is removed).
    • Alleviating stress by meditation, counselling, therapies or medicinal treatment helps the patient become mentally and socially healthy.
    • Educate oneself from valid resources and do not believe in hear-say stories.
    • Individuals as well as the family should be counselled to mitigate the concerns and fears. It is only natural to feel anxious about the outcome of such a disease but keeping a positive outlook not only helps recover but also cope with a disease.
    • Proper psychiatric or psychological help should be taken if the individual feels anxious, there is loss of interest in activities previously found pleasurable, loss of appetite, change in sleeping patterns etc.
    • Attempts should be made to keep oneself busy by developing some hobbies to keep the mind free from anxiety.
    • Join a support group with other fellow patients. Not only does this help in coming to terms with the disease, but also helps in establishing trust and hope for any patient.

    Lifestyle Modifications

    • Cessation of smoking and alcohol can help the patient recover faster and prevents further damage to the body.
    • Increased intake of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants can help cleanse the body. Simultaneously it is recommended to decrease intake of excessive salt, fat, spices, caffeine etc.
    • Daily exercise is recommended. Apart from helping in regaining body functions, it also helps in alleviating stress and reducing weight.
    • Meditation and yoga can help relax the mind and body, and also alleviate stress.

    Treatment Options

    To commence any treatment, the doctor needs some investigations to support the diagnosis. Blood test reports, CT scan, MRI, laryngoscopy and biopsy findings can help make a diagnosis, stage the laryngeal cancer and select the best possible modality for the treatment.
    • Medicines: Medical science has evolved enough to be able to control the growth of cancerous tissues with various anticancer medicines. It is preferred in those individuals who do not show any metastasis of the cancer.
    • Surgery: Cancerous tissue can also be operated on and removed from the body. In late stages of cancer, the larynx is removed and the patient won’t be able to speak and an external opening is made on the throat to give him/her speech.
    • Radiotherapy: Radiation can help destroy the cancerous tissues and is highly effective. 
    • Lifestyle Modifications: A change in diet, daily exercise and cessation of smoking can help improve the outcome of the treatment.
    • Counselling: In a disease like laryngeal cancer, it is important to educate the patient and his/her family, mitigate their doubts and concerns, and give them emotional support to tide over the illness.
    With increase in smoking and obesity, laryngeal cancers are on the rise. Since this disease affects speech, a very vital part of the social and mental health of any individual, it is important to utilize rehabilitative services apart from medicinal treatment. Resolve360 is an endeavour to make rehabilitation accessible to everyone at their convenience. We offer a team of dedicated specialists who work holistically yet personalize every therapy as per your needs. To book your first free session, register here! 


    This article is meant to guide and educate the patients. All medical treatment is to be undertaken under the guidance of expert medical service providers only.

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