Throat cancer is a type of cancer that affects the larynx and other parts around the mouth. It is also called a cancer of the larynx. People who smoke or consume alcohol are at a high risk of contracting throat cancer. Men are more likely to contract the disease than women.
Be vigilant of symptoms of throat cancer.
The most common signs of a throat cancer are unusual changes in voice pitch that won’t go away. Hoarseness of the voice is one of the first symptoms since throat cancer affects the vocal chords and surrounding areas. There may be pain in the larynx, making swallowing and breathing painful. Other symptoms include the presence of blood in sputum and neck pain.
A lump in your throat may appear, although there are instances when an abnormal growth on the neck occurs without any symptoms. Lumps in the throat and neck do not always mean that throat cancer is present. However, these symptoms are often linked to throat cancer. The lymph nodes are common areas on the body where cancer could spread.
Schedule an appointment with the doctor.
If the above symptoms persist for more than 1-2 weeks, make an appointment with your doctor where he/she will perform a physical examination. The doctor will look for symptoms and confirm these by checking your throat and the areas around it. He/she will also ask questions such as lifestyles, whether you smoke, drink alcohol, and take any drugs.
Your doctor will confirm the diagnosis by running some tests. Using a laryngoscope, the doctor will examine the larynx. A biopsy is done to confirm the diagnosis involving taking a tissue sample for analysis under a microscope. It may also include an x-ray of the chest to check where the pain emanates as well as a computed tomogprahy (CT) scan of the head, neck, and throat.
Physician makes a prognosis of throat cancer
Once the results are in, if it is cancer, the doctor will assess the cancer stage. Staging throat cancer is a method for doctors to evaluate the extent of the tumor and guides them to therapy and a prognosis of the throat cancer. Treatment of throat cancer largely depends on the size, location of the tumor, and how far it has spread (metastasized).
The stages of throat cancer are classified from Stage 1 to Stage 4 with Stage 1 the least advanced state and Stage 4 as the most advanced state. If throat cancer is detected very early on, microsurgery using laser is performed on the patient. The voice is preserved and the cure can be done in one phase. For an early stage throat cancer, radiation therapy is used to remove the cancerous tumors on the larynx and the lymph nodes on the neck. If the vocal chords are affected, surgery may be performed to remove the tumors in order to preserve the voice of the patient. Doctors will use a combination treatment for sufferers of advanced stage throat cancer involving radiation therapy and surgery. Laryngectomy is performed removing the larynx or vocal chords, or both. Another combination treatment is to apply radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In worse cases, surgery is still performed to remove all tumors that may be present.
If the patient responds to combination treatments, regular check ups are advised to see if there are recurrences. When the patient does not respond to any of the cancer treatments, he/she must discuss with the attending physician plans for medical care towards the end of his/her life.
Nose and throat cancers are very similar because the disease affects the larynx (voice box), the nasopharynx (upper throat) and the tonsils. Thus, it is important that proper diagnosis is given.
Sources and Citations
National Institutes of Health
Merck Manual of Medical Information