Throat cancer may strike just about any part of your throat, from your pharynx to your larynx, or what’s more commonly known as the “voice box”. Sometimes it may also affect the tonsils as well as the epiglottis, a piece of cartilage situated at the base of your tongue, which covers the windpipe each time you swallow.
Compared to other forms of cancer, according to medical professionals, throat cancer is quite rare. It comes in a number of forms, depending on which part of the throat is affected. Also, cancerous tumors in the throat may develop either in the lining of the throat which consists of flat cells, or in the glandular cells most especially found in the larynx.
Below are some of the most important matters that you should know about throat cancer.
Causes and Risk Factors
When mutations in the cells located in the throat happens, cancerous tumors form. This is what causes throat cancer to develop. But just like other types of cancer, doctors do not really know the exact cause of this particular cancer.
However, medical professionals are quite sure that there are certain risk factors involved. Risk factors are things that are said to increase a person’s chances of developing a condition or disease. Some of the risk factors associated with the development of throat cancer are:
- Cigarette smoking and chewing of tobacco
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD
- Being infected with the human papilloma virus or HPV
- Poor dietary choices or a diet that’s lacking in vitamin A
According to doctors, throat cancer is more common in men than in women. Also, they add that it is possible for having poor dental or oral hygiene to increase one’s risk of developing throat cancer. Exposure to certain chemicals such as nickel and asbestos is regarded as a risk factor, too.
Signs and Symptoms
Just like with many other types of cancer, throat cancer does not produce enough signs and symptoms during the early stages, or the ones present may be easily mistaken for any other problem. Because of this, early detection of throat cancer which is crucial for a successful treatment can be challenging.
Some of the signs and symptoms associated with throat cancer include:
- Hoarseness or changes in the voice
- Trouble with swallowing or dysphagia
- A sore throat
- Persistent coughing, which sometimes involve coughing up blood
- Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck
- Unexplained or unintended weight loss
- Headache or earache
Especially if you have any of these signs and symptoms for 2 to 3 weeks, medical professionals say that it’s important for you to let your doctor know about them right away.
It is very much possible for cancerous tumors in the throat to spread to adjacent tissues or organs if throat cancer is not managed properly. For instance, it may spread to the nearby lymph nodes, brain, lungs and other organs, which can certainly make treating it a really difficult one.
Treatment and Management
If the cancerous tumor in the throat is small and has not spread to other parts of the body, it may be removed surgically. There are many types of surgery that may be done, like having a portion of the throat removed (pharyngectomy) or removing the entire voice box (laryngectomy).
Radiation therapy may be recommended by a doctor after the removal of the cancerous tumor in the throat. In more advanced cases of throat cancer, chemotherapy is commonly employed.
Certainly, quitting smoking or using any other tobacco-based products is important as it may impede with the treatment as well as increase one’s likelihood of developing another cancer. Excessive consumption of alcohol should be avoided, too, according to medical professionals.