Throat Cancer

A type of cancer where cancerous tumors develop in the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), and tonsils. Throat cancer can also effect the epiglottis, which is the piece of cartilage that acts as the lid of the windpipe. Tonsil cancer is type of throat cancer that effects the tonsils, which are located at the back of the throat. The throat is a 5-inch long muscular tube. This tube begins behind your nose and continues down into your neck. The voice box is located just below the throat.
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  • cough
  • hoarseness in voice
  • difficulty swallowing
  • ear ache
  • lump or sore that doesn't heal
  • sore throat
  • weight loss

  • in the United States, 14,290 new cases of throat cancer are reported each year
  • luckily, the trend of new cases has been on a decline since the 1960’s
  • there are about 3,500 deaths from throat cancer each year
  • a person is at greatest risk of developing cancer between the ages of 45 and 84
  • the mortality rate for men is 2.3 in 100,000 people and 0.5 in 100,000 for women making men at a greater risk to die from throat cancer

Diagnosis and Treatment
Different ways of diagnosing Throat Cancer include:
  • using an endoscope to get a close look at the throat. Images of the throat are projected onto a movie screen and abnormalities are detected.
  • if abnormalities are found, a biopsy is performed where a lump from the throat is surgically removed and then examined in a lab.
  • x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans may be used to determine the extent of the cancer beyond just looking at the throat.
  • once throat cancer is diagnosed, the stage of the cancer is determined. Throat cancer ranges in severity from stage I, which has smaller amounts of tumors that are condensed in one area, to stage IV, with the most amount of tumors that cover a larger area of the throat.
Different ways of treating Throat Cancer include:
  • radiation therapy uses high-energy rays that are targeted at cancer cells and cause them to die. With early stages of throat cancer, radiation may be the only necessary treatment but with more advanced stages of cancer, radiation may be combined with other forms of treatment.
  • surgery may be performed at all stages of throat cancer. For early stages, an endoscope may be inserted into a person’s throat and then surgical tools are passed through it to scrape off any signs of cancer in the throat. A laryngectomy is the removal of part of your voice box which is effected by cancer. The doctor should be able to preserve the ability to speak and breathe on your own. If the tumors are larger, the removal of the entire voice box may be necessary. The ability to breathe is still preserved but speech may be lost and needed to be regained. During a pharyngectomy, your doctor reconstructs your throat in order to remove the cancerous parts but also still allow the patient to swallow food. If the cancer has spread down to the lymph nodes in the neck, these lymph nodes may be removed.
  • chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and is usually used in combination with radiation therapy.
  • targeted drug therapy is used to alter certain aspects of cancer cells that fuel their growth. Cetuximab is a targeted drug that has been approved to treat throat cancer. Other drugs are undergoing tests to see if they would also be an appropriate way of treating throat cancer.
  • rehabilitation after which ever treatment is necessary for the stage of cancer that a patient has is very important to regain the abilities of the throat. A patient may work with a doctor or specialist to care for a surgical opening, when they have difficulty eating or swallowing, stiffness and pain in the neck, or speech problems.
  • other treatments that can be used in helping to deal with the diagnosis and other treatments include acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, and relaxation techniques. While these remedies do not have any tie with curing throat cancer, they can prove to be helpful in dealing with the side effects of treatment.
  • it is highly important to learn about the different treatment options in order to make the right decision for the specific case.
  • If a person is diagnosed, it is important that they find someone to talk to about their traumatic experiences. It is highly important to take care of yourself during the treatments and to attend all follow-up doctor appointments.

Risk Factors
  • smoking or tobacco
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • poor dental hygiene
  • HPV
  • diet without fruits and vegetables
  • exposure to asbestos (usually occurs in the manufacturing industries)

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Risk Reduction
  • no smoking
  • no drinking (or if so, in moderation)
  • healthy diet with a balance of fruits and vegetables
  • use caution around chemicals and avoid breathing in hazardous fumes