Laryngeal papillomas are rare noncancerous (benign) tumors of the voice box (larynx).
Laryngeal papillomas are caused by human papillomavirus. Although they can occur at any age, papillomas mostly affect children between the ages of 1 and 4 years. Papillomas are suspected when parents notice hoarseness, a weak cry, or other changes in the child’s voice. Papillomas recur often and occasionally spread into the windpipe and lungs, obstructing the airway. Rarely, they become cancerous.
Laryngeal papillomas are detected using a laryngoscope to view the voice box. Doctors perform a biopsy in which they take a sample of the papilloma to confirm the diagnosis. Surgery is the usual treatment. Drug treatment is available for papillomas that rapidly recur or spread beyond the larynx. Many children require numerous procedures through childhood to remove the tumors as they reappear. At puberty, some papillomas may disappear on their own.