The larynx (voice box) is divided into three main sections: supraglottis, glottis (vocal cords) and subglottis. Most cancers of the larynx involve the supraglottis or glottis, and the vast majority arise from the surface membranes (squamous cell carcinoma).
Glottic (vocal cord) cancer is often discovered early, because even small lesions may cause hoarseness and prompt patients to seek medical evaluation. Fortunately, early stage vocal cord cancers have an excellent cure rate, regardless of treatment method (surgery or radiation).
When choosing a treatment type, key factors to consider are preservation of voice and minimization of lasting treatment side effects.
Surgical treatment of early glottic cancer is usually performed as an outpatient operation, through the mouth and without external incisions. A new technique using the KTP laser appears to have equal cure rates compared to traditional carbon dioxide (CO2) laser treatment, although use of this technology may produce superior voice outcomes.
In contrast to radiation therapy, KTP laser surgery allows for focused treatment only to the areas of the vocal cord(s) that are affected by the cancer, leaving the non-diseased regions undamaged to maximally preserve voice quality.