Throat cancer is the term used for cancer of the pharynx or larynx. It refers to abnormal development of cancer cells in the voice box, the vocal cords and other parts of the throat such as nasopharynx, hypopharynx, oropharynx, glottis, etc. It is also considered as a subtype of esophageal cancer and is one of the main head and neck cancer.
Types of throat cancer
Throat cancer is generally divided into two categories:
1. Pharyngeal cancer, developed in the pharynx
2. Laryngeal cancer, developed in the larynx
Causes and symptoms of throat cancer
The most significant cause of throat cancer is the use of tobacco products and drinking excessive amount of alcohol. Vitamin A deficiency, poor dental hygiene and exposure to asbestos can increase that chance of infected throat. Men are more prone to this type of cancer than women. Symptoms include changes in voice, weight loss, dysphagia, swollen lymph nodes, ear pain, sore throat, coughing up blood, etc.
Diagnosing throat Cancer
Diagnosis of the cancer can be done after taking a look at your symptoms and medical history. Laryngoscopy is also performed by a specialist doctor to verify if it’s throat cancer. It allows the doctor to have a close look at your throat. A biopsy can be done where a sample of your tissue will be collected for test of cancer.
Treatment of throat cancer
There are different ways to treat throat cancer. Your doctor will choose the option, depending on the stage of the cancer, age and health condition of the patient. These are:
- Surgery: Early stage tumor can be removed completely by performing a surgery. This procedure is done at the hospital by a specialist surgeon. Some healthy tissues around the cancer site is also eliminated to make sure no evidence of cancer is left behind.
- Radiation therapy: This method may also be applied to destroy the cancer cells where high intensity radiation beams are used. It is usually quite a safe and effective method, which takes a few days to complete.
- Chemotherapy: If the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes and distant organs, chemotherapy is the most appropriate treatment option or the doctor may advise the combination of chemotherapy with radiation therapy. It uses drugs to reduce the growth of malignant cells and destroy them completely.
Radiation therapy generally causes more side effects than the other treatments for throat cancer. However, side effects can be more rigorous if combined with chemotherapy. They begin after a couple of weeks and may last 4-8 weeks. These complications are:
- Changes in skin
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Dry mouth
- Mucus build-up
- Change in voice
- Loss of taste and appetite
- Breathing issues
- Hair loss
Post operative care
After the treatment, patients may develop above mentioned complications, hence extra care is necessary. Decent physical activities can help you be more active.
Keep the front of your neck clean. Avoid using scented products and use sun cream or cover the area with light scarf when you step outside.
A better nutritional support can help prevent weight loss and make you feel less weak.
Keep drinking enough water to prevent the throat from getting dry.
Rinse your mouth regularly.
Consult your doctor if you experience some severe complications.
Regular check ups will be required to avoid recurrence.