Throat is a 5-inch-long tube that runs from nose to neck. Throat Cancer is a compilation that includes Cancer of the mouth, tonsils, nose, sinuses, salivary glands and neck lymph nodes. Larynx (Laryngeal Cancer) that is the voice box and pharynx (Pharyngeal Cancer) which is the hollow tube running from nose to windpipe, are the two most prone areas of Throat Cancer.
While it is easy to observe the common signs and symptoms of throat Cancer, its early detection still gets delayed because of negligence. Being aware of these common signs and symptoms is sure to aid.
- Difficulty swallowing due to sore Throat (dysphagia)
- Change in voice
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Swelling of the eyes, jaw, throat or neck
- Bleeding in the mouth or through the nose
- Constant urge to clear your throat
- Chronic cough (may cough up blood)
- Ear pain
Throat Cancer is associated with various causes which range from excessive smoking, tobacco use, to exposure to chemicals. Among all, smoking has been the most prevalent cause contributing to Throat Cancer symptoms.
A few common likely causative factors of throat Cancer are:
- Maintaining a low diet in fruits and vegetables
- Rampant use of cigarettes, pipes and cigars.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus.
- Chronic acid reflux called GERD.
- Contracting Epstein - Barr virus (EBV) virus is transmitted via saliva.
Though there’s no definitive formula to prevent Throat Cancer, but it can be definitely be prevented to an extent. Here are some of the measures that might protect you from the dreadful disease.
- Saying no to smoking.
- Reducing alcohol intake.
- Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats while avoiding fat and sodium intake and take steps to lose excess weight.
- Engaging in physical activity at least 150 minutes a week.
- Reducing risk of HPV. Limiting the number of sexual partners and practicing safe sex. Also, the HPV vaccine might offer you some protection.
Throat Cancer is staged on three key components:
- Tumor (T) describes the size of the original tumor.
- Node (N) indicates whether the Cancer is present in the lymph nodes.
- Metastasis (M) refers to whether Cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
A number (0-4) or the letter X is assigned to each factor. A higher number indicates increasing severity. The letter X means the information could not be assessed.
Once the T, N and M scores have been assigned, an overall stage is assigned. The stages range from 0 to 4:
- Stage 0: The tumor has not invaded tissue beyond your throat.
- Stage 1: The tumor is less than 7 cm and limited to your throat.
- Stage 2: The tumor is slightly larger than 7 cm, but still limited to your throat.
- Stage 3: The tumor has grown and spread to nearby tissues and organs.
- Stage 4: The tumor has spread to your lymph nodes or distant organs.
The survival rate and diagnosis usually go hand in hand. If the symptoms and stage of Throat Cancer are discovered earlier, the individual will have a greater chance of survival. Here is a analysis of 5 year survival rate of different types of Throat Cancer based on earlier history.
Survival rates are based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any person’s case. Many other factors can affect a person’s outlook, such as their general health and how well the Cancer responds to treatment.
Being aware of the symptoms and keeping an eye on your health will definitely help you detect Cancer at early stage. Also, screening tests may help finding some types of Cancer early, when treatment is most likely to be effective. There are a series of diagnostic tests for you to identify and beat it.
Throat Cancer Diagnostic Tests
- Direct (flexible) laryngoscopy: In this,a fiber-optic laryngoscope, a thin, flexible, lighted tube is inserted through the mouth or nose to look at the larynx and nearby areas.
- Indirect laryngoscopy: Special small mirrors are used to view the larynx and nearby areas.
- Panendoscopy: It is a procedure that combines laryngoscopy, esophagoscopy, and bronchoscopy.
- Biopsy: Different methods are used to obtain tissue for a biopsy, depending on where the tumor is located.
- Conventional incisional biopsy: The doctor surgically removes part or all of the tissue where Cancer is suspected.
- Fine-needle-aspiration biopsy (FNA): This is used if there is a lump in neck that can be felt. A thin needle is inserted into the area, and then cells are withdrawn and examined under a microscope.
- Endoscopy: An endoscope is inserted through the mouth, nose or an incision. The endoscope has a tool to remove tissue samples.
- Imaging tests, which includes
- CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans
- PET (positron emission tomography) scans
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
- Chest and dental X-rays
- Barium swallow: Also called an upper GI (gastrointestinal) series, this set of X-rays of the esophagus and stomach may be used to look for Cancer.
- Laryngeal videostroboscopy: This test lets the doctor look at the larynx and see how well you swallow.
- Fiberoptic endoscopic examination of swallowing (FEES): A small, flexible endoscope is inserted through the nose, allowing the doctor to examine swallowing.
Depending on the type of Cancer and how far it has spread, treated with one or a combination of therapies.
The types of surgical procedures depend on the location and stage of your cancer. Options may include:
- Surgery for early-stage Throat Cancer.
- Surgery to remove all or part of the voice box (laryngectomy).
- Surgery to remove part of the throat (pharyngectomy).
- Surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes (neck dissection).
Chemotherapy may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or kill lingering Cancer cells after surgery and/or radiation treatment. A combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used as a primary treatment for patients with larger tumors or those who cannot tolerate surgery.
- Radiation Therapy:
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams from sources such as X-rays and protons to deliver radiation to the Cancer cells, causing them to die. For early-stage Throat Cancers, radiation therapy may be the only treatment necessary. For more advanced Throat Cancers, radiation therapy may be combined with chemotherapy or surgery. In very advanced Throat Cancers, radiation therapy may be used to reduce signs and symptoms and make you more comfortable.
- Targeted Therapies:
These innovative new drugs stop the growth of Cancer cells by interfering with certain proteins and receptors or blood vessels that supply the tumor with what it needs to grow. Targeted drugs treat Throat Cancer by taking advantage of specific defects in Cancer cells that fuel the cells' growth. These drugs can be used in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Early stage of the Throat Cancer is small, localized, and highly curable when treated with surgery& or radiation therapy. It includes stage I, II, and some stage III Cancers.
Having some of the symptoms associated with Throat Cancer may not necessarily indicate the presence of the disease. However, expert advice to rule out the possibility is prudent, making curative treatment possible.
Being aware of the signs and symptoms will definitely help a patient to suspect the disease. And the going for a diagnosis or visiting a doctor will clear the air.