Disorders and DiseasesOncology

Throat Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What is Throat Cancer? Meaning, Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Stages, Prevention and Treatment of Throat Cancer...

Meaning of Throat Cancer

Throat cancer is a type of cancer which develops in the part of throat such as voice box, vocal cords, oropharynx, or tonsils.

Cancer is defined as a medical condition or disease which leads to uncontrollable multiplication and division of abnormal cells in the human body.

These abnormal cells then lead to the development of malignant growth which is known as Tumours.

When we discuss about Throat Cancer, it refers to cancerous tumours which develop in your voice box, vocal cords, oropharynx, or tonsils.

Larynx-and-nearby-structures-throat

Throat cancer can be mainly divided into 2 categories: –

Pharyngeal Cancer: –

As mentioned in the name, this type of throat cancer starts from the Pharynx part of the throat. The pharynx is the hollow tube that starts from the top of windpipe and goes to behind the nose.

Laryngeal Cancer: –

As mentioned in the name, this type of throat cancer starts from voice box, also known as the Larynx. The voice box is present just below your throat and consists of vocal cords which vibrate when you talk, to generate a sound.

In comparison to other forms of cancer, Cancer of the throat is a relatively rare phenomenon but is fatal nonetheless.

Throat cancer spreads very quickly and requires diagnosis and treatment at an early stage to give you the best chance of survival.


Symptoms of Throat Cancer

It is comparatively difficult to identify throat cancer symptoms in the early stages and can be confused with some other ailment.

If you observe any of the below-mentioned symptoms, seek medical diagnosis immediately.

  • Changes in a voice like cracking and hoarseness
  • Dysphagia (i.e trouble swallowing)
  • Soreness in the throat
  • A persistent cough with blood
  • Swelling in lymph nodes
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Consistent pain in the ear
  • Wheezing
  • An ongoing headache

Diagnosis of Throat Cancer

If you have been experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should consult with a qualified medical practitioner.

You have to explain all the symptoms which you have been experiencing along with their severity and duration.

This will give the doctor an idea about your condition. If the doctor assumes that these symptoms could indicate towards throat cancer, you will be asked to undergo a laryngoscopy.

A laryngoscopy gives an exact view of your throat, and if any abnormalities are observed during the laryngoscopy, a biopsy will be required to check for cancer.

 There are3 types of biopsies that can be recommended depending on the medical condition: –

Conventional Biopsy: – It is performed in an operation theatre where a small incision is made to get the sample for testing.

Fine Needle Aspiration: – A fine needle is inserted into a tumour to extract the sample for testing.

Endoscopic Biopsy: – An endoscope is inserted in your mouth to get the small sample tissue for testing.


Causes of Throat Cancer

Generally, males are at higher risk of developing throat cancer, compared to females.

There is no particular cause which can be attributed to the reason behind throat cancer, but there are certain lifestyle habits which lead to one developing throat cancer: – 

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Excessive smoking
  • Prolonged exposure to asbestos
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Genetic causes

Apart from the above-mentioned causes, the risk of throat cancer increases in a person who is suffering from any other type of cancer such as lung, oesophageal or bladder.


Prevention of Throat Cancer

There is no particular way to prevent throat cancer from occurring but the following precautions can be taken to decrease the risk of throat cancer: –

Stop smoking: –

 You should discontinue smoking to reduce the risk of throat cancer. As giving up smoking is quite tough, so you can consult your doctor regarding the same or use OTC products in order to leave the smoking.

Moderate alcohol consumption: –

If you are unable to give up alcohol entirely, decrease the quantity that you are consuming to no more than 2 drinks every day, women should consume only half of this.

Lead a healthy lifestyle: –

Include fruits and vegetables rich in anti-oxidants in your routine diet. Start working out regularly in order to reduce weight and reduce sodium intake.

Prevention from HPV: –

Some forms of throat cancer can be caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) which is transmitted sexually. Reduce the number your sexual partners or use protection every time.


Treatment of throat cancer

With the innovation in the field of medical science, there are different types of treatments available for throat cancer.

Depending on the patient’s condition, the doctor can use either or all of the below mentioned methods: –

Surgery: –

If a tumour is quite small in size, the doctor will remove it with surgery, which will be conducted in a hospital and you will be administered anaesthesia.

Radiation Therapy: –

After a tumour has been replaced, your doctor will recommend radiation therapy wherein high energy rays are used to destruct the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy: –

If your cancer has spread, the doctor will use chemotherapy along with radiation to kill and slow down the growth of cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy: –

Targeted therapy will be used in addition to chemotherapy and radiation therapy as it disrupts the molecules responsible for the growth of cancer cells.


Complications with Throat Cancer

Some complications can be experienced even after the treatment, such as: –

  • Inability to speak
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Disfigurement of face or neck

In such cases, you may require a speech therapist to relearn how to speak. You can also go for reconstructive surgery for disfigurement of face or neck.

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