Throat Cancer


Throat cancer also known as head and neck cancer usually affects the larynx, also known as voice box. The cells in these regions multiply abnormally and uncontrollably leading to formation of benign or malignant tumors. The cancer of the pharynx is called Pharyngeal cancer and that of the larynx is known as Laryngeal cancer. It is uncommonly occurring cancer and accounts for only 1.1% of cases worldwide. Throat cancer is divided into two broad classes of Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma based on the types of cells being affected. The noted symptoms are Dysphagia, hoarseness, ear ache, swollen lymph nodes and unexplained weight loss.

Throat cancer symptoms may differ as per the stage and location of cancer. Every type is different. It is important for the doctor to screen which stage the patient is on so that the signs can be treated effectively. The symptoms and signs may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cough
  • Changes in the voice
  • Ear pain
  • A sore throat
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling of jaw, throat, neck or eyes
  • Nose or mouth bleeding
  • Breathing problems

There are many risk factors of throat cancer which may indicate the risk but may not be the real cause sometimes. Certain lifestyle changes increase the risk of this problem. Throat cancer causes include:

  • Smoking: It is the most dangerous cause of throat cancer. It can also affect head, lungs or neck.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: People consuming more than one drink everyday are at a high risk of getting throat cancer.
  • Poor Nutrition: The immunity of the person decreases when the diet lacks fruits and vegetables, thus increasing the risk of throat cancer. Usually, heavy drinkers have vitamin deficiency. Proper diet and nutrition can reduce the risk of the disease to a greater extent.
  • Gastro esophageal reflux Disease: A condition wherein the stomach’s acid leaks back into the food pipe.
  • Epstein-Barr Virus: It is a common virus found in saliva
  • Exposure to toxic substances like asbestos
  • Human papillomavirus infection: It is a sexually transmitted virus
  • Genetic Syndromes and Gender: Men are more prone to throat cancer than women. This may be due to the fact that factors like smoking, drinking is more common in men than women. However, the statistics are dramatically changing.

The symptoms cannot be ignored at any cost. The treatment options available include:

  • Surgery: The cancerous parts of the throat are removed surgically. Small tumors can easily be removed while the large ones may require the removal of voice box or some parts of the jaw. The different types of surgeries are Laryngectomy, Pharyngectomy or Neck dissection in most of the cases.
  • Radiation Therapy: High doses of radiation are used to remove the cancerous cells
  • Chemotherapy: It involves administrating cancer killing drugs to the body. Chemotherapy in most cases affects the healthy tissues of the body as well.

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