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Throat Cancer

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Throat cancer is a general term used to describe cancer of the pharynx, larynx or tonsils. The throat consists of the long muscular tube that extends from behind the nose till the neck. The larynx, also called is the voice box is present right at the end of the throat. It helps make sound when one talks. The epiglottis is the hanging ball right at the back of your mouth. It can also be affected by throat cancer. Tonsils are present right at the back of the throat and cancer of the tonsils is considered a type of throat cancer.

Throat cancer is usually caused by excessive or chain smoking. The following paragraphs will shed some light on throat cancer and its implications.

What is Throat Cancer?

Throat cancer is a general term that is used to explain different types of cancers that occur in the throat, mouth, neck and chest. Cancer that develops in the following organs is considered throat cancer:

The pharynx, the hollow tube that runs between the nose and esophagus. The cancer can occur in the:

  • Nasopharynx, that is the part of the pharynx located behind the nose
  • Oropharynx, the midsection of the pharynx located behind the mouth
  • Hypopharynx, the last section of the pharynx located behind the larynx

The larynx, the part of the throat where the vocal cords are located. The cancer can affect either of the three parts of the larynx, that includes:

  • Glottis, the midsection of the larynx where the vocal cords are located
  • Supraglottis, the area of the larynx above the voice box
  • Subglottis, the region of the larynx below the vocal cords and above the windpipe

Symptoms of Throat Cancer

The symptoms of throat cancer depend on the location of the cancer in the specific part of the throat. It is important to take note of the symptoms as it is very important for early detection and successful treatment of throat cancer.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Persistent hoarseness of voice
  • Changes in normal voice
  • Sore throat
  • Pain when swallowing food or drinks
  • Problems with voice production
  • Pain in throat
  • Pain in ear
  • Problems with breathing
  • Swelling or small lump in the throat or neck
  • Chronic dry cough
  • Unexplained weight loss

The changes in voice are self-detected. At times, the lump in the throat is painless and small. As the disease progresses, the lump turns into a painful swelling. Thus, it is very important to be aware of these obvious symptoms to curb the cancer before it spreads to the advanced stages. Most of the time, the symptoms are mistaken as common bacterial or viral diseases. If the symptoms persist after a three week treatment, one should definitely probe further for the exact cause.

Symptoms of Throat Cancer in Advanced Stage

The symptoms worsen as the cancer spreads. The symptoms include:

  • Permanent changes in voice
  • Loss of voice
  • Pain and difficulty swallowing
  • Breathing trouble with whistle-like sounds
  • Radiating pain in the jaw
  • Swelling in the jaw
  • Pain and stuffy feeling in the ear
  • Loss of weight
  • Growing lump in the neck

Causes of Throat Cancer

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Cancer occurs when cells undergo abnormal mutation. These cells continue to live longer than the healthy cells. They start accumulating in the throat and form a tumor. The exact cause of throat cancer is unknown, but it has been found tobacco products play a major role in the development of this dreaded disease.

Risk factors that contribute to throat cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco. Excessive smoking of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and other tobacco products increases the risk of developing throat cancer.
  • Infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection has been found responsible for the increasing cases of throat cancer.
  • Infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) makes one susceptible to development of throat cancer.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is another common disease where the stomach acid leaks into the esophagus. This increases the chances of developing throat cancer depending on the frequency a severity of acid backflowing into the esophagus.

Diagnosis of Throat Cancer

An accurate diagnosis can help in the early diagnosis of throat cancer. There are many integrated diagnostic tools that help in evaluation of the cancer and planning of the treatment.

Some of the tests conducted include:

  • Physical examination
  • X-ray
  • Barium swallow
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Pharyngoscopy
  • Pandenoscopy
  • Tissue biopsy
  • CT scan
  • PET scan

Treatment for Throat Cancer

Treatment of throat cancer is a complex procedure. There are many factors that have to be looked into before planning the treatment. This includes the stage of cancer, location and part affected.

The treatment includes:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery to remove the cancer cells in early stages or remove all or part of the larynx. In some cases, one may have to remove all or part of the throat. If the cancer is deep inside, it may require removal of some or all the lymph nodes.

Rehabilitation after Treatment

Throat cancer compromises the ability to talk, swallow and breath after treatment. Thus, one requires rehabilitation to improve these problems.

Smoking makes one vulnerable to throat cancer. However, throat cancer can occur in people who don’t smoke. Do not have intercourse with multiple, unknown partners and without condoms. This will prevent one from getting infected with HPV. Prognosis of throat cancer is this good if caught in the early stages. Or else it results in loss of voice and affect everyday activities such as eating, drinking and breathing. Talk to your doctor for more information and make sure to have a positive outlook during the course of treatment.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 30, 2015