Throat Cancer

Throat Cancer Awareness Month & Ribbon
Month April
Ribbon Burgundy & Ivory Color

Throat cancer is a disease that affects the throat of an individual. It is a type of head and neck cancer. It has different names based on the part of the throat that is affected. The different parts of throat (pharynx) include oropharynx (the middle part of the pharynx), the hypopharynx (the lower part of the pharynx) and the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat behind the nose). At times the voice box (larynx) or tonsils is also affected with throat cancer.

Cancer occurs when cells in the throat divide without control or unconditionally. If cells keep dividing abnormally and uncontrollably, it forms a mass of tissue called as tumor. These tumors are of two types- malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body and a benign tumor usually does not invade or spread. Most throat cancers are squamous cell carcinomas that mean they begin in thin, flat cells appearing like fish scales.

Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms of throat cancer are often nonspecific and sometimes marked as signs of a harmless disease or other cancers.

Throat cancer symptoms in early stage

  • Continued progressive hoarseness (a rough quality of the voice)
  • A feeling of lump or presence of lump in throat
  • Sore throat and the pain may radiate to ear and head
  • Coughing, purulent bloody sputum with smelly odor, even coughing up blood
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Laryngeal Stridor (difficulty in breathing, a sense of suffocation)

Throat cancer symptoms in late stage

Treatment

Treatment for throat cancer depends on many factors that include size, location and stage of your throat cancer, your overall health and your personal preferences. The treatments include the following:

  • Radiation therapy: Small, precise doses of radiation target and destroy cancer cells.
  • Surgery: The surgical procedures depend on the location and stage of your cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells by using the chemicals. For more advanced throat cancers, it is often used along with radiation therapy.
  • Targeted drug therapy: These drugs treat throat cancer by taking advantage of specific defects in cancer cells that stimulate the cells' growth.
  • Multi-modality or adjuvant treatments: These treatments include surgery followed by radiotherapy, or chemo-radiotherapy, especially in the case of large tumors.

Causes

The throat cancer is seen majorly in people who smoke. The main risk factors for cancerous tumors or the cancer cells in the throat area that develop in an abnormal way are due to smoking or using smokeless tobacco or alcohol. Therefore, it is evident that men are predominantly affected. Another cause of throat cancer is because of cells in throat that develop genetic mutations. These mutations cause cells to divide uncontrollably and continue living after healthy cells would normally die. These cells accumulate and form a tumor in your throat.

What causes the mutation that result in throat cancer is not known. But doctors have identified few prominent risk factors that may increase your risk of throat cancer.

Test & Procedures

There are different ways to diagnose throat cancer which are recommended by doctor.

  • Endoscopy: Using endoscope the doctor diagnose for signs of abnormalities in your throat.
  • Laryngoscopy: Using laryngoscope the doctor examine your vocal cords.
  • Biopsy: Removing a tissue sample for testing.
  • Imaging tests: These tests include X-ray, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET).

Preventive Measures

To prevent throat cancer from occurring no confirmed way has been identified. But following few precautions can keep you on safe side.

  • Stop smoking or don't start smoking.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all.
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Protect yourself from HPV by limiting your number of sexual partners and using a condom every time you have sex or you can consider the HPV vaccine.

Side Effects

After undergoing the treatment, the patients have to face few side effects that include:

  • Eating difficulties
  • Swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)
  • Stiffness and pain in your neck
  • Speech problems
  • Nausea

A to Z Cancer Types