ENT Head & Neck Surgery Center

Rm 02, 5/F., Kai Seng Commerical Centre,
4-6 Hankow Road, TST Kln, HK
(near Kowloon Hotel)
Tel: (852) 3100 0555
Fax: (852) 3100 0556

Lawrence Chow / ENT Doctor

Cancer of the Epiglottis – What It Is and How to Treat It

Cancer of the Epiglottis – What It Is and How to Treat It


What is Epiglottis Cancer?

The Epiglottis is the part of the body attached at the very top point of the larynx and is a flap that functions to cover the trachea while swallowing. This prevents food from entering the breathing tubes which would cause aspiration or even pneumonia in cases where liquids pass through.

Cancer of the epiglottis is often considered as part of cancer of the larynx or laryngeal cancer.

Cancer is a condition where the body’s cells do not die after they have subsequently divided and spread. Instead they continue to divide and multiple, clumping together to form lumps of tissues known as tumors. In many cases the cancer cells affect other healthy cells and this leads to the dysfunction of organs and thus leads to death.


Cancer of the epiglottis could lead to difficulty breathing and impairment of speech or swallowing. When it reaches metastasis other areas of the larynx will be infected as well.


What are the Common Symptoms?

One of the earliest signs of cancer of the epiglottis is hoarseness in the voice of the patient. If the condition does not change after three weeks then it is a possible sign that cancer is forming within the larynx.


The only problem with this symptom is that there are so many other causes of hoarseness such as acid reflux or thyroid diseases.


Another common symptom of epiglottis/laryngeal cancer is difficulty in swallowing. Even if the slightest amount of food causes pain or difficulty it could be caused by a tumor or some form of cancerous swelling within the larynx. Sharp pains often denote swelling on the epiglottis.


Other symptoms include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Coughing
  • A Lump in the Throat
  • Consistent but dull pain in the ear


Outlook and Statistics

Very few women ever develop cancer of the epiglottis although they are not completely exempted from the case. Men are still the most common to attract the condition, with a total of about 200,000 deaths per year caused by this type of cancer.


T-Stage 0 patients have a 96% survival chance of five years. Those in T-Stage 1 and 2 experience 59-70% of surviving up to five years. The chances of survival for people in T-Stages 3 and 4 drop significantly, particularly after reaching metastasis.


Treatment of Epiglottis Cancer

Surgery is one of the early procedures done and is often considered for the early stages of cancer.


There are two options:

  • Trans-oral laser surgery: this is where a high-energy laser is used to cut the cancerous tissue out. This is a much simpler procedure and is often only done on the earliest stages of cancer.
  • Partial or total laryngectomy – this is an open body surgery where the neck is sliced open. The larynx may be partially removed but the patient still has the ability to speak and swallow. In total laryngectomy these skills are lost permanently.

Beyond surgery there is also radiotherapy and chemotherapy.


For details of the ENT services, diagnosis, and treatment, please consult our ENT specialist.




HK ENT Specialist Ltd.

Hong Kong based ENT clinic centre

For ENT Services, Audiology & Speech Therapy,

Sleep Disordered Breathing Management,

Hearing Aid Prescription & Medical Cosmetic Services


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