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Laryngeal Cancer and Papillomatosis - Child

To view this article in the new Rare Cancers Australia Knowledgebase, click here 

Definition of throat cancer:

Cancer that forms in tissues of the pharynx (the hollow tube inside the neck that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the windpipe and esophagus). Throat cancer includes cancer of the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat behind the nose), the oropharynx (the middle part of the pharynx), and the hypopharynx (the bottom part of the pharynx). Cancer of the larynx (voice box) may also be included as a type of throat cancer. Most throat cancers are squamous cell carcinomas (cancer that begins in thin, flat cells that look like fish scales). Also called pharyngeal cancer. 

Laryngeal Cancer and Papillomatosis

Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the larynx. The larynx is also called the voice box. It's the part of the throat that holds the vocal cords and is used in breathing, swallowing, and talking. Rhabdomyosarcoma (a malignant tumor of muscle) is the most common type of laryngeal cancer in children. Squamous cell carcinoma is a less common type of laryngeal cancer in children.

Symptoms and Diagnostic and Staging Tests for Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your child’s doctor if you see any of the following problems in your child:

  • 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.

Other conditions that are not laryngeal cancer may cause these same symptoms.

Tests to diagnose and stage laryngeal cancer may include the following:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • MRI of the head and neck.
  • CT scan.
  • Ultrasound.
  • Endoscopy.
  • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy.

Other tests used to diagnose laryngeal cancer include the following:

  • Laryngoscopy: A procedure to look at the larynx (voice box) 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. The tissues samples are viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
  • Barium swallow: A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound). The liquid coats the esophagus and stomach, and x-rays are taken. This procedure is also called an upper GI series.

Treatment of Laryngeal Cancer

Treatment of laryngeal cancer in children may include the following:

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy after a biopsy, for rhabdomyosarcomas.
  • Laser surgery and radiation therapy for squamous cell cancer. Laser surgery uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) to turn the cancer cells into a gas that evaporates (dissolves into the air).

See the following summaries for more information:


Papillomatosis of the larynx is a condition that causes papillomas (benign tumors that look like warts) to form 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.

Treatment of Papillomatosis

Treatment of papillomatosis in children may include the following:

  • Laser surgery for papillomatosis and other benign tumors.
  • Biologic therapy for papillomas that keep come back after being removed by surgery four times in one year.

For more information on Childhood Laryngeal Cancer and Papillomatosis click here

This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.

For information about clinical trials that are available in Australia click here

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