What is a papilloma?

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What is a papilloma?

A papilloma is a wart-like growth which can occur in various areas of the body either on the outside or on the inside of your body. Laryngeal papillomas occur in the voice-box (larynx). They have a distinctive appearance – appearing bumpy or stippled, not unlike a raspberry. They mostly occur along the surfaces of the vocal folds but in rarer cases they can spread to the tissue in the mouth and nose, the throat, the trachea (windpipe) or the lungs.

What are the symptoms?

What causes papillomas?

Laryngeal papillomas are caused by a family of viruses known as HPV – human papilloma virus. However, not everyone who comes into contact with the virus will develop papillomas and some people carry the virus without ever knowing or developing growths. The growth of the papilloma is probably due to a combination of the virus and of having a susceptibility to it in your immune system. Using your voice in the wrong way – which cause the muscles of the voice box to work too hard - might also promote the spread of papillomas in the larynx.

What can be done?

Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure of laryngeal papillomas. Like warts, they are very resilient and tend to grow back no matter how carefully and completely they are removed. However, treatments are becoming more and more successful in producing long-term results so

you may be free of detectable signs for years, decades or longer. Recurrence of a papilloma does not mean that your treatment failed or that the health professionals did something wrong – it’s part of the condition.

  • Surgery is usually carried out and aims to remove as much of the papilloma as possible without scarring the vocal folds (which could cause permanent hoarseness).

  • Voice therapy can help reduce or eliminate papillomas by correcting any misuse of the voice box and reducing the irritation which can encourage the papilloma to spread.

    Publication Date: May 2017

    Review Date: May 2020

    Responsibility for Review: Speech & Language Therapy

    Reference No: PIL/CG/0472

    Version: 1

  • Voice therapy can also prevent bad-habits from forming as you instinctively try to compensate for any voice problems – for example by trying to talk louder or project your voice more.

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