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Cancer of the Larynx

  • Posted: 01/21/2011

Cancer Cells

Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the larynx and the other organs of the body.

Normal cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When normal cells grow old or get damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells form when the body doesn’t need them, and old or damaged cells don’t die as they should. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.

Tumors in the larynx can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign tumors are not as harmful as malignant tumors:

  • Benign tumors (such as polyps or nodules):
    • are usually not a threat to life
    • can be treated or removed and usually don’t grow back
    • don’t invade the tissues around them
    • don’t spread to other parts of the body
  • Malignant growths:
    • may be a threat to life
    • usually can be treated or removed but can grow back
    • can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs
    • can spread to other parts of the body

Laryngeal cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the tumor in the larynx. They can travel through lymph vessels to nearby lymph nodes. They can also spread through blood vessels to the lungs, bones, or liver. After spreading, laryngeal cancer cells may attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues. See the Staging section for information about laryngeal cancer that has spread.