Childhood Laryngeal Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)

Last modified: 2018-03-28
Last downloaded: 2018-06-23

   

General Information About Childhood Laryngeal Cancer and Papillomatosis

   

Laryngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the larynx.

The larynx is a part of the throat, between the base of the tongue and the trachea (windpipe). The larynx contains the vocal cords, which vibrate and make sound when air is directed against them. The sound echoes through the pharynx, mouth, and nose to make a person's voice. The larynx is also called the voice box.

There are three main parts of the larynx:

  • Supraglottis: The upper part of the larynx above the vocal cords, including the epiglottis.
  • Glottis: The middle part of the larynx where the vocal cords are located.
  • Subglottis: The lower part of the larynx between the vocal cords and the trachea.
Laryngeal cancer forms in the tissues of the larynx (area of the throat that contains the vocal cords). The larynx includes the supraglottis, glottis (vocal cords), and subglottis. The cancer may spread to nearby tissues or to the thyroid, trachea, or esophagus. It may also spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, the carotid artery, the upper part of the spinal column, the chest, and to other parts of the body (not shown).

Rhabdomyosarcoma (a malignant tumor of muscle) is the most common type of laryngeal cancer in children. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of laryngeal cancer in adults, but is rare in children.

Laryngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.

  

Papillomatosis of the larynx is a condition in which papillomas have formed in the tissue that lines the larynx.

Papillomatosis of the larynx is a condition in which papillomas (benign tumors that look like warts) have formed in the tissue that lines the larynx. Papillomatosis may be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Papillomas in the larynx may block the airway and cause trouble breathing. These growths often recur (come back) after treatment and may become cancer of the larynx.

  

Signs and symptoms of laryngeal cancer or papillomatosis include a change in the child’s voice.

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by laryngeal cancer, papillomatosis, or by other conditions.

Check with your child's doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Hoarseness or a change in the voice.
  • Trouble or pain when swallowing.
  • A lump in the neck or throat.
  • A sore throat or cough that does not go away.
  • Ear pain.
  

Tests that examine the throat are used to detect (find) and diagnose laryngeal cancer.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Computed tomography (CT) scan of the head and neck. The child lies on a table that slides through the CT scanner, which takes x-ray pictures of the inside of the head and neck.

Computed tomography (CT) scan of the head and neck. The child lies on a table that slides through the CT scanner, which takes x-ray pictures of the inside of the head and neck.

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas of the body, such as the head and neck. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.Computed tomography (CT) scan of the head and neck. The child lies on a table that slides through the CT scanner, which takes x-ray pictures of the inside of the head and neck.
  • Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. The picture can be printed to be looked at later.
  • Barium swallow : A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metalliccompound). The liquid coats the esophagus and stomach, and x-rays are taken. This procedure is also called an upper GI series.
  • Biopsy : The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. The sample of tissue may be removed during one of the following procedures:
    • Laryngoscopy: A procedure to look at the larynx for abnormal areas. A mirror or a laryngoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing) is inserted through the mouth to see the larynx. A special tool on the laryngoscope may be used to remove samples of tissue.
    • Endoscopy: A procedure to look at organs and tissues inside the body, such as the throat, esophagus, and trachea to check for abnormal areas. An endoscope (a thin, lighted tube with a light and a lens for viewing) is inserted through an opening in the body, such as the mouth. A special tool on the endoscope may be used to remove samples of tissue.

A biopsy is done to diagnoselaryngeal papillomatosis.


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Stages of Childhood Laryngeal Cancer

  

The process used to find out if cancer has spread from the larynx to nearby areas or to other parts of the body is called staging. There is no standard system for staging childhood laryngeal cancer. The results of the tests and procedures done to diagnose laryngeal cancer are used to help make decisions about treatment.


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Treatment Option Overview

  

There are different types of treatment for children with laryngeal cancer.

Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

  

Children with laryngeal cancer should have their treatment planned by a team of doctors who are experts in treating childhood cancer.

Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other pediatric health professionals who are experts in treating children with cancer and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. This may include the following specialists and others:

  

Five types of standard treatment are used:

Laser surgery 

Laser surgery uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) to turn the cancercells into a gas that evaporates (dissolves into the air). Laser surgery is used to treat laryngeal cancer and papillomatosis.

Radiation therapy 

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.

Radiation therapy may be given if the tumor is likely to spread. It is used to treat laryngeal cancer.

Chemotherapy 

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy).

Chemotherapy is used to treat laryngeal cancer.

Immunotherapy 

Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or biologic therapy.

The following types of immunotherapy are used to treat laryngeal papillomatosis:

  • Interferon: Interferon affects the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth.
  • Vaccine therapy: Vaccine therapy uses a substance to stimulate the immune system to destroy a tumor.

Targeted therapy 

Targeted therapy is a treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibodies are a type of targeted therapy.

  • Monoclonal antibodies: This targeted therapy uses antibodies made in the laboratory, from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells. Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody used to treat laryngeal papillomatosis.

Targeted therapy is being studied for the treatment of childhood laryngeal cancer that has recurred (come back).

  

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

  

Treatment for childhood laryngeal cancer may cause side effects.

For information about side effects that begin during treatment for cancer, see our Side Effects page.

  

Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.

  

Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.

Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials supported by NCI can be found on NCI’s clinical trials search webpage. Clinical trials supported by other organizations can be found on the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

  

Follow-up tests may be needed.

Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.

Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your child's condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.


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Treatment Options for Childhood Laryngeal Cancer

For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

Newly Diagnosed Childhood Laryngeal Cancer

Treatment of newly diagnosedlaryngeal cancer in children may include the following:

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Recurrent Childhood Laryngeal Cancer

Treatment of recurrentlaryngeal cancer in children may include the following:

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.


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Treatment Options for Childhood Laryngeal Papillomatosis

For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

Treatment of laryngeal papillomatosis in children may include the following:

For papillomas that recur (come back) after being removed by laser surgery four times in one year, treatment may include:


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To Learn More About Childhood Laryngeal Cancer

For more information from the National Cancer Institute about laryngeal cancer, see the following:

For more childhood cancer information and other general cancer resources, see the following:


Back to Top Source: The National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ®) Cancer Information Summaries ( http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq)