Cancers of larynx (voice box) or pharynx (throat) most commonly present with hoarseness or change in voice, breathing difficulty and difficulty in swallowing in late cases. More than ninety percent cases are related to consumption of alcohol or smoking. Diagnosis is established by endoscopic evaluation of voice box and throat (Laryngoscopy) with biopsy of any suspicious growths or ulcers. Most patients with initial stage at presentation can be cured with radical radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Selected patients may be treated with laser surgery which involves complete excision of vocal cord lesions thus preserving the voice box and ability to speak. Unfortunately most patients in India present in advanced stages and need surgery (Total/Partial Laryngectomy). Contrary to belief patients who have undergone removal of their voice box for cancer can still speak well with good phonation. During laryngectomy a small voice prosthesis is placed in the throat which allows normal and intelligible hands free speech. Selected patients may require radiotherapy and chemotherapy in addition to laryngectomy to prevent any recurrence of disease.
Modern surgical techniques and improvement is precision radiation techniques allows for preservation of larynx in some patients and excellent functional outcomes and voice preservation in patients undergoing total laryngectomy.