Question: I have been teaching for 24 years. I suffer with laryngitis. March 5th, 2014, the ENT told me I have a vocal cord polyp in my throat and by April 23rd, 2014 he said it had grown a little bigger. What can I do to reduce it? If I can’t reduce and need surgery, what would be the cost?
Thank you for your question. A vocal cord polyp is a growths on the vocal cords. It is first, most important, to make sure that these are not tumors or cancers. Often, your ENT doctor can tell pretty well by the examination- but not always. If there is any question, a vocal cord polyp needs to be removed and biopsied- This is generally done in the operating room, with a microscope and a lighted tube in the throat, and takes but a few minutes to do in the operating room as an outpatient. Generally, but not always, the voice will improve from this procedure.
Benign vocal cord polyps and nodules may be caused by vocal abuse- and are quite frequent in teachers. It your doctor feels that is the case, he or she would likely recommend voice/speech therapy. Additionally, we might recommend vocal rest (difficult for teachers) and sometimes a brief course of prednisone to bring down swelling. Speech therapy is to help train you to project your voice in the suboptimal acoustic environment that is the classroom, without as much trauma as you may be having. We may also treat for reflux, as gastric acid can irritate the vocal cords and predispose you to forming polyps and nodules. Of course, smoking and alcohol are also risk factors for developing growths on the vocal cords- and can predispose to both benign and cancerous growths.
Most benign vocal cord polyps and nodules are medically treatable, and do not frequently require removal- especially since they are likely to come back if the cause has not been resolved.
Robert Pincus MD, FACS
NY Otolaryngology Group- NY Voice Center
Associate Professor Otolaryngology NY Medical College