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Histology of laryngeal cancer

Larynx is covered with squamous cell epithelium.

Diagnosis of laryngeal lesions often involves biopsy. A common pathologic finding in the biopsy is alteration in the squamous epithelium, such as atypia that reaches up to the level of carcinoma in situ (malignant cells limited to the covering epithelium). The pathologist must carefully examine the lesion to exclude tumor cell invasion (carcinoma that can spread further). Treatment depends on the report from the pathologist.

The invasive squamous cell carcinoma is the dominating cancer in this region. The squamous cell carcinomas are graded according to their similarity to normal squamous epithelium (well, moderately or poorly differentiated).

Except from squamous cell carcinomas, there are some other cancers that occur rarely in the larynx, such as:

  • adenocarcinoma
  • carcinoid
  • neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • others

When surgical removal of the larynx due to cancer is performed, the pathologist examines this specimen in detail to conclude whether the cancer is completely removed. This often involves ‘whole-organ sectioning technique’. This means that large microscopic sections are produced to reliably include all resection borders. The examination of this type of specimens is time-consuming and report cannot be expected until after a few weeks.

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