The Basics Laryngeal Cancer and GERD

Human larynx cancer, illustration

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic have reported that GERD is significantly associated with the development of laryngeal cancer. The details of this study appeared in the September 2006 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

The larynx, also called the voice box, is a short passageway shaped like a triangle that lays just below the pharynx in the neck. The pharynx is a hollow tube about five inches long that starts behind the nose and goes down to the neck to become part of the esophagus.

There are three main parts of the larynx: the glottis, the middle part of the larynx where the vocal cords are located, the supraglottis, the tissue above the glottis, and the subglottis, the tissue below the glottis. The subglottis connects to the trachea, which takes air to the lungs.

Cancer of the larynx, also be called laryngeal cancer, can develop in any part of the larynx, but most begins in the glottis. The inner walls of the larynx are lined with cells called squamous cells. Almost all laryngeal cancers begin in these cells.

If cancer of the larynx spreads, the cancer cells often spread to nearby lymph nodes in the neck. The cancer cells can also spread to the back of the tongue, other parts of the throat and neck, the lungs, and other parts of the body. When this happens, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells as the primary tumor in the larynx. For example, if cancer of the larynx spreads to the lungs, the cancer cells in the lungs are actually laryngeal cancer cells.

The disease is called metastatic cancer of the larynx, not lung cancer. It is treated as cancer of the larynx, not lung cancer. Doctors sometimes call the new tumor “distant” disease.

Additional Resources


    National Cancer Institute (NCI) booklet (NIH Publication No. 02-1568, Sept. 20, 2006

    Laryngeal cancer. Philadelphia (PA): Intracorp; 2005. Various p., Sept. 20, 2006

    MedlinePlus, William Matsui, MD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Division of Hematologic Malignancies, Sept. 20, 2006

    Continue Reading