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Black Patients More Apt to Have Voice Box Removed When Cancer Strikes

MONDAY July 16, 2012 -- Among people with laryngeal (voice box) cancer, black patients are less likely than white patients to receive treatment that preserves their larynx, a new U.S. study finds.

In the past, total laryngectomy (removal of the voice box) followed by radiation was the standard of care for locally advanced laryngeal cancer, according to background information in the study. But there is now widespread use of larynx preservation using radiation with chemotherapy as the initial treatment, with total laryngectomy reserved as a backup treatment.

In the new study, published July 16 in the Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery, researchers analyzed national data on more than 3,800 patients diagnosed with stage 3 and stage 4 laryngeal cancer between 1991 and 2008. The study included 2,808 white patients, 648 black patients, 287 Hispanic patients and 119 Asian patients.

Larynx preservation occurred in 80 percent of white patients and 74 percent of black patients, the investigators found. Possible explanations for this difference include factors such as financial barriers, lack of health insurance or lack of health literacy, suggested Dr. Wei-Hsien Hou, of the University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, and colleagues.

"In conclusion, although the use of nonsurgical larynx preservation therapy appears to be increasing among the general population, racial disparities continue to exist, most notably among black patients with stage 4 disease," the authors concluded in a journal news release.

About 12,000 cases of laryngeal cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about laryngeal cancer.

Posted: July 2012


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