The voicebox (larynx)
The voicebox, or larynx, is tube-shaped and about 5cm (2in) long. It sits where the throat divides into the trachea (the windpipe that takes air to and from the lungs) and the oesophagus (the tube that food goes down when you eat).
- allows the air you breathe in to reach your lungs
- has as a valve that closes to prevent food and drink from going into the windpipe when you swallow
- contains the two vocal cords, which vibrate together when air passes between them to produce the sound of your voice.
The larynx can be seen or felt as the lump in the front of the neck known as the Adam’s apple. It has three main parts:
- supraglottis – the area above the vocal cords
- glottis – the area containing the vocal cords
- subglottis – the area below the vocal cords.
Types of laryngeal cancer
Most cancers of the larynx are squamous cell carcinomas.
This means the cancer starts in the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) of the lining of the larynx. There are also rarer types of laryngeal cancer including sarcomas, lymphomas, adenocarcinomas and neuroendocrine carcinomas.
This section covers treatment for squamous cell cancer of the larynx. For information about the rarer types of laryngeal cancer, contact our cancer support specialists.