Throat cancer is a condition in which there is a rampant cell growth in the throat leading to the development of cancerous tumors in the voice box, throat, or tonsils. Throat cancer generally develops in the flat cells that line the inside of your throat. Tobacco and moderate to heavy alcohol use are the primary risk factors for throat cancer.
Throat cancer is generally of two types – pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer. Pharyngeal cancer forms in the pharynx. A pharynx is a hollow tube that runs from behind your nose and mouth, connecting both of them to the esophagus. Laryngeal cancer takes place in the larynx (voice box).
Throat Cancer: Symptoms
Throat cancer hardly indicates any symptoms if it is at an initial stage and is undetectable at the time of physical diagnosis. An excessive irritation in the throat or discoloration on the lining tissues of the throat is the only sign of an abnormality. The throat cancer symptoms are often confused with the symptoms of severe cold and cough due to their similarity. Persistence of these symptoms for a long time requires immediate medical professional’s attention.
The symptoms of throat cancer often vary from person to person. It depends on the type, stage, and location of the throat cancer a person is suffering from. These symptoms are:-
1. Sore Throat: A continuous sore throat or a burning sensation in the throat can be a symptom of throat cancer.
2. Dysphagia (trouble swallowing): Dysphagia is a condition in which a person faces difficult while swallowing food down the throat. It can be a symptom of throat cancer as cancer can lead to a narrowing of the passages of the mouth, throat, or esophagus.
3. Swollen lymph nodes: Pain or swelling in the lymph nodes is a common symptom of throat cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. There is a chance that cancer may get triggered in the lymph nodes or, more commonly, it spreads there from somewhere else.
4. Wheezing: Throat cancer obstructs the airflow by narrowing the airway and thus leads to difficult or noisy breathing, or wheezing.
5. Chronic cough: Sometimes a person may experience an urge to continuously cough and clear the throat or a painful sensation in the throat. This can be a symptom of a throat cancer.
6. Voice Change or Hoarseness: A voice change or hoarseness can be a symptom of throat cancer, particularly cancer of the voice box (larynx). The voice box contains the vocal cords and if there is cancer developing in the voice box, it will affect the vocal cords, thereby making a change in the voice. If facing any continuous or progressive change in the voice, then consulting a medical professional is advised.
7. Lump on the neck: There is a possibility that a throat cancer can cause a lump in the neck. Cancer leads to accumulation of cells in a particular area and thus forming a lump of tissues. If there is a neck lump in the absence of any infection or persists long after an infection may indicate a throat cancer.
8. Ear pain: There is a chance that some throat cancers provoke severe ear pain as the muscles of the throat and ears are connected.
9. Unexplained weight loss: Unexpected weight loss can occur with any throat cancer, although this is generally not an early symptom.
10. Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath is a common problem for people with cancer. It may be caused by a tumor or another condition related to cancer.
Throat Cancer: Diagnosis
If you experience any of these above symptoms, then seeking a medical care is always advised. It can be a throat cancer. Some of the above symptoms are similar to the symptoms of the viral infection or influenza. Getting them confused with the signs of throat cancer is very common. But if these symptoms persist for a long time, then medical attention is needed. Early diagnosis and treatment of throat cancer increases the chance of a cure.
Throat Cancer: Treatment
1. Surgery to remove all or part of the voice box: In case of small tumors, the doctor can remove only the affected part with cancer, leaving as much voice box as possible.
2. Surgery to remove part of the throat: Smaller throat cancers sometimes, require only the removal of a small part of your throat during surgery.
3. Surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes: There are instances when the throat cancer spreads in the lymph nodes within the neck In such cases, doctors usually recommend surgery to remove some or all the lymph nodes.