Throat Cancer – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is throat cancer?
Throat cancer refers to cancer that develops in any part of the throat. The throat is the front part of the neck located in front of the vertebrae. Throat consists of vocal cords, larynx (voice box), pharynx, and other surrounding parts.
Most throat cancers develop in adults older than 50. Throat cancer is likely to develop in more men than women.
What causes throat cancer?
What causes throat cancer is not clearly known to doctors and scientists. What is known is smoking or using tobacco increases the risk of developing throat cancer. Risk also increases if a person drinks too much alcohol over a long time. The combination of smoking and drinking alcohol leads to increased risk for throat cancer.
What are the symptoms of throat cancer?
The following are the common symptoms of throat cancer:
- Coughing up blood
- Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
- Neck or ear pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hoarseness that does not go away even after 3 to 4 weeks
- Sore throat that does not get better in 2 to 3 weeks, even with antibiotics
- Swelling or lumps in the neck
- Unexplained weight loss
How is throat cancer diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and review the symptoms. The exam may reveal a lump on the outside of the neck. The doctor will examine inside of your throat with an endoscope (a flexible tube with a small camera at the end).
The doctor may order the following other tests for diagnosis of throat cancer:
- CT scan of head and neck
- MRI of the head or neck
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan of the chest
- PET scan
- Biopsy of suspected tumor
How is throat cancer treated?
The goal of throat cancer treatment would be to remove or destroy cancer and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body. The mode of treatment depends on size and location, and stage of cancer. Treatment primarily consists of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Your doctor may use surgery or radiation to remove the tumor if it is small.
Your doctor may use a combination of radiation and chemotherapy if the tumor is large or has spread to lymph nodes in the neck. The combined radiation and chemotherapy is used to save the vocal cords (voice box). If this is not possible, your doctor will remove the vocal cords (voice box) surgically. This surgical procedure is called laryngectomy.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.