For more than 40 years, public health officials and doctors have warned about the many negative effects smoking has on a person’s body and health, including vocal health. Smoking causes swelling and inflammation of the larynx and vocal cords, which can affect the voice.
More seriously, smoking can increase the risk for vocal fold cancer and other disease related to the voice. Early detection of cancer is critical to a person’s prognosis and quality of life.
“Even before you get a cancer, the vocal cords can show a pre-cancerous change called leukoplakia, which can be identified with a procedure in the office to look at the vocal cords,” said Dr. Kenneth Altman, director of The Institute for Voice and Swallowing and professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. Hoarseness of the voice is one the earliest signs of voice disease and cancer. If you are experiencing hoarseness for longer than three weeks, schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist to evaluate your vocal cords.
Benefits of quitting
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quitting smoking cuts your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus by half within five years. Setting a quit date, identifying smoking triggers, and building your social support by telling family and friends about your plan are just the first steps on your way to quitting. You don’t have to give up tobacco cold turkey. Speak with a physician or pharmacist for other options that can include a combination of medicine, ways to change personal habits, and emotional support that can help you quit smoking. Visit smokefree.gov to develop your own Quit Plan and access valuable resources to assist you in overcoming tobacco addiction.
-By Jacqueline Vargas Childs, registered nurse for The Institute for Voice and Swallowing