Symptoms and diagnosis of laryngeal cancer

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Symptoms of laryngeal cancer

  • Hoarse voice for longer than 4 weeks
  • Change in the sound of your voice
  • A lump in your throat or neck
  • Problems breathing
  • A persistent cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bad-smelling breath
  • Weight loss
  • Earache (rare)

These symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cancer, but it’s important to go to the GP and get any unusual changes checked out. Cancer can be easier to treat and cure if it’s found early. 

Can I be screened for laryngeal cancer?

Testing for laryngeal cancer when you have no symptoms is called screening. There is no national laryngeal cancer screening programme in Ireland at present. If you are concerned about laryngeal cancer, especially if you are a heavy drinker, a smoker or an ex-smoker, talk to your GP. It is important to be descriptive about your symptoms - saying how long you have had them, describing the pain and what aggravates it.

Diagnosing laryngeal cancer

Your family doctor (GP) will talk to you about your symptoms. They will refer you to hospital if they think you need more tests. Tests you might have include:

Nasendoscopy

This test uses a thin flexible tube with a light at one end. Your doctor puts the tube into your nose and down into your throat. He or she will spray your throat with local anaesthetic before putting the tube in. This will numb your throat and make the test more comfortable for you.

Laryngoscopy

This is an exam of your larynx under general anaesthetic. It is like a nasendoscopy. It allows your doctor to have a closer look at your larynx. If your doctor sees any abnormal changes during the laryngoscopy, they can take a biopsy. This is a small sample of the tissue. It is removed and sent to a lab and examined under a microscope to see if the sample contains cancer cells.

An otolaryngologist is a doctor who specialises in treating ear, nose and throat (ENT) problems.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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