Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

What is laryngeal cancer?

Laryngeal cancer includes cancerous cells found in any part of the larynx — the glottis, the supraglottis or the subglottis.

The larynx, often referred to as the voice box, is a two-inch-long tube-shaped organ located in the neck at the top of the trachea (windpipe). The cartilage in front of the larynx is sometimes called the “Adam’s apple.”

The vocal cords (or vocal folds) are two bands of muscle that form a “V” shape inside the larynx.

The area of the larynx where the vocal cords are located is called the glottis. The area above the cords is called the supraglottis and the area below the cords is called the subglottis. The epiglottis is a flap at the top of the trachea that closes over the larynx to protect it from food that is swallowed into the esophagus.

Breath enters the body through the nose or mouth, and then travels to the larynx, trachea and into the lungs. It exits along the same path. Normally, no sound is made by the vocal cords during breathing or exhaling.

When a person talks, the vocal cords tighten, move closer together and air from the lungs is forced between them. This makes them vibrate and produces sound.