The Anatomy of the Voice

- Vocal cords are two bands of smooth muscle located in the larynx, sometimes call the voice box
- The larynx is located at the top of the trachea, or windpipe
- Sound is created as air from the lungs vibrates the vocal cords

Protecting your vocal health

- Drink plenty of water, for its moisturizing effect
- Don't smoke. Smoking raises the risk of cancer and vocal cord polyps. Alcohol consumption by smokers also increases risk. As many as 90 percent of head and neck cancers are related to use of these substances.
- Keep your voice below the yelling and screaming level, which strains the vocal cords.

Laryngeal cancer

- Symptoms can include persistent hoarseness, difficult or painful swallowing, ongoing sore throat, difficulty breathing, pain in the ear, lump in the neck.

Common vocal cord conditions

- Laryngitis: an inflammation that can be caused by infection, overuse of the voice, inhaled irritants or gastrointestinal reflux
- Nodules: small, benign and callous-like growths
- Polyps: soft, benign and blister-like growths
- Vocal cord hemorrhage, paralysis or weakness

When to see your doctor

- If you have hoarseness or a change in voice that lasts for more than two weeks