Vocal Fold Atypia
Vocal Fold Atypia often appear as whitish or reddish lesions on the vocal fold surface, are comprised of abnormal-looking cells that are not cancerous. Because it is thought that they are the prequel to cancer, atypia is usually considered as pre-cancerous or pre-malignant.
Early Vocal Fold Cancer
Early Vocal Fold Cancer also appear as whitish or reddish lesions, but have abnormal-looking cells that have invaded the boundary of the top layer of the vocal fold.
Early cancer may affect one or both vocal folds and are often referred to as T1 or T2 type vocal fold cancers that have not spread to neck lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body.
Symptoms Do Not Distinguish Vocal Fold Atypia from Early Cancer
Because voice symptoms are similar for both atypia and early cancer, symptoms alone do not distinguish between vocal fold atypia and early cancer. Medical consultation is necessary.
Smokers Are Vulnerable
Smoking is the single greatest risk factor for developing vocal fold atypia and cancer. Risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and years spent smoking. A scratchy, low voice in a smoker should not simply be dismissed as "smoker's laryngitis" since vocal fold cancera potentially life threatening diseasemight be present.
Vocal fold atypia can and often do recur. Early cancer can lead to advanced cancer which can be life-threatening.
Early diagnosis and complete excision result in excellent cure rates.