Laryngeal cancer natural history, complications and prognosis
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If left untreated, laryngeal cancer produces few symptoms early in the course. Once the tumor has expanded from its site of origin, it may obstruct the airway. Common complications of laryngeal cancer include airway obstruction, neck disfigurement, and voice abnormalities. The prognosis varies with the type and stage of laryngeal cancer. Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of larynx has the most unfavorable prognosis. The 3-year survival rate for supraglottic laryngeal cancer and T3 transglottic carcinoma are 91.7% and 73.2%, respectively.
- More aggressive
- Direct extension into the pre-epiglottic space, lateral hypopharynx, glossoepiglottic fold and the tongue base and lymph nodes
- Well differentiated
- Less aggressive, they tend to grow slow
- Metastasize late in the disease
- Extend superiorly into the ventricular walls or inferiorly into the subglottic airway
- Extends into the mediastinum
- Airway obstruction
- Disfigurement of the neck or face
- Loss of voice and speaking difficulties
- A small percentage of patients (5%) will not be able to swallow and will need to be fed through a feeding tube
- The 3-year survival rate for supraglottic laryngeal cancer and T3 transglottic carcinoma is 91.7% and 73.2%, respectively
- Laryngeal cancer can be cured in 90% of patients if detected early.
- If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes in the neck, 50 - 60% of patients can be cured.
- If the cancer has metastasized to parts of the body outside the head and neck, the cancer is not curable and treatment is aimed at prolonging and improving quality of life. After treatment, patients generally need therapy to help with speech and swallowing.
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