Introduction to Throat Cancer
Cancer is a condition that involves the excessive and uncontrollable growth of a collection of cells. This commonly results in the invasion and destruction of surrounding tissues in the body.
What is Throat Cancer?
Cancer is a condition that involves the excessive and uncontrollable growth of a collection of cells. This commonly results in the invasion and destruction of surrounding tissues in the body. Throat cancer is a general term for when this develops in any part of your throat, but it is usually categorised into two specific groups: laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers. Laryngeal cancer affects the larynx (voice box), whilst pharyngeal cancer forms in any part of the pharynx (the space that extends down from the back of your nose all the way to your windpipe). If you are found to have cancerous cells in your throat they will be given a grade between 1 – 4 depending on a number of factors. These include how quickly the mass is growing, as well as its current size.
In comparison to other types of cancer, throat cancer is relatively uncommon. It is more likely to develop in older people, and is seen much more commonly in males. However, this may be because certain risk factors, such as smoking, are more common in men.
What are the causes for Throat Cancer?
It’s not clear exactly what causes throat cancer, but there are a number of well know risk factors that increase your chances of developing this condition: Smoking or chewing tobacco, alcohol consumption, an unhealthy diet and some vitamin deficiencies and exposure to asbestos or coal dust.
There is also a connection between some types of throat cancer and infections caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). Whilst the body’s natural immune system usually fights off these infections, there is a chance that they can go unnoticed for many months and cause cell changes that lead to cancer.
What are the symptoms of Throat Cancer?
The specific set of symptoms you have will depend on the exact location of the cancer, but some common complaints include: Sore throat or earache, difficulty swallowing, a lump in the neck, hoarseness or a change in your voice, persistent, coughing, wheezing or bad breath.
You may experience some more general symptoms that are associated with any type of cancer, such as extreme tiredness and unexplained weight loss.
How is Throat Cancer treated?
If you are concerned that you may have developed a throat cancer, your GP will be your first point of contact. If they too suspect that you may have this condition, you will be referred to a specialist oncologist for further investigation. A procedure called a laryngoscope may be necessary, this involves a long flexible tube being inserted into your throat under local anaesthetic, and gives the doctor a better look at your throat.
Some cases can be successfully treated with surgery, but this will usually rely on an early diagnosis. This will typically be completed under sedation in hospital. Following the surgery, you may be advised to undergo radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. In cases where the tumour is much larger, or the cancerous cells have spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be recommended.
The outlook for throat cancer is generally positive providing it is identified early. If the condition is noticed after it has spread to different areas in the body however, a complete cure may be impossible. In cases such as this, therapy and treatment will focus on slowing the progression of the disease in order to prolong life.