Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Larynx Cancer

The most common causes of larynx cancer include smoking and heavy alcohol consumption. In some cases, larynx cancer can develop in individuals who have never smoked or consumed alcohol.


Clinical evaluation by a head and neck surgeon is required to accurately outline the location and stage of cancer. A specialist may perform a fiberoptic laryngoscopy in order to assess the extent of tumor within the voice box.

A biopsy is necessary to confirm the tissue diagnosis. This will usually require a procedure under anesthesia. Another type of biopsy is a fine needle aspiration, which can be performed by inserting a needle into a lymph node in the neck to obtain cells. At Northwestern, this is performed right in the head and neck surgery office under the guidance of an ultrasound machine to ensure that needle can be directed into the correct spot with minimum discomfort.

Imaging studies, including a CT scan and a PET scan, may be ordered to fully determine the anatomic extent of cancer at the primary site and lymph nodes, to rule out any spread beyond the head and neck region into the lungs or bones.

You may also require an evaluation with a speech and swallowing pathologist to assess the degree of swallowing dysfunction at baseline. A barium swallow test may also be necessary.

Related Resources

Useful Links
What You Need to Know About Cancer of the Larynx