Symptoms and diagnosis of larynx cancer

Symptoms

The symptoms of larngeal cancer may include any of the following:

  • Hoarse voice for longer than 4 weeks
  • Change in the sound of your voice
  • A lump in your throat or neck
  • Problems breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Earache

Even though these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer, do have them checked by your doctor. For more information, contact the National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700.

Screening

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.

Diagnosis

First visit your family doctor (GP) if you are worried about any symptoms. If your doctor has concerns about you, he or she will refer you to a hospital. There you will see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist who may arrange more tests. You may need some of the following tests:

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, he or she 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. This helps your doctor to diagnose the problem.

Other tests:

  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan

These scans can help to stage the cancer. This means finding out the size of the cancer and if it has spread anywhere else. This can help your doctor to decide on the right treatment for you.

Learn more about the above tests

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm