The most common symptoms of vocal cord cancer, also known as laryngeal cancer, include hoarseness or changes in the voice, according to the American Cancer Society. Other indicators of laryngeal cancer include sore throat, trouble swallowing, ear pain and unknown lumps in the neck or throat, states WebMD.
Laryngeal cancer can impact the entire larynx, which is the portion of the throat that holds the vocal cords, explains WebMD. Typically, people who have voice changes that do not improve after two weeks should visit a doctor immediately, says the American Cancer Society. In most cases, this type of cancer is easy to spot right away due to the significant changes in vocal function. However, when laryngeal cancers start above the vocal cords, or the area known as the supraglottis, or below the vocal cords, or the area known as the subglottis, the cancer can be difficult to notice. In these cancers, symptoms such as hoarseness typically only appear after the cancer reaches later stages.
If the cancer starts in the supraglottis or the subglottis, other symptoms may appear before the cancer impacts vocal function, notes the American Cancer Society. This includes coughing, ear pain, weight loss and trouble breathing. Doctors can perform several tests to find out if malignant, or cancerous, cells are forming in the tissues around the larynx or the vocal cords.