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Throat Cancer

Throat cancer begins in your throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), or tonsils. These are the organs that help you swallow, speak, and breathe. Most of these cancers occur in the throat itself, the tube that starts behind your nose and ends in your neck(called the pharynx). The rest of the cancer begins in the voice box(called the larynx).

This cancer tends to proliferate. Hence, it would be best if you are treated early, which will give you the best chance to beat them and keep a good quality of life.

Schedule an appointment with your doctors if you spot any symptoms. Your doctor will diagnose it and offer you treatment depending on your health and overall factors.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of throat cancer may consist of:

  • A cough
  • Changes in your voice example, hoarseness or not speaking clearly
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • A lump or sore that is too long to heal
  • A sore throat
  • Weight loss

Causes

Throat cancer can occur in your throat if you develop genetic mutations. It is not exactly clear what causes these mutations, but if these cells accumulate, then they develop a tumour in your throat.

Various Factors that can increase your risk of throat cancer include:

  • Use of Tobacco, including smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted virus
  • A diet deficient in fruits and vegetables
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Types of throat cancer

Throat cancer is an umbrella term used for cancer that develops in the throat (pharyngeal cancer) or in the voice box (laryngeal cancer). Specific terms are employed to differentiate the part of the throat where cancer originated, even though most throat cancers involve the similar types of cells.

  • Nasopharyngeal cancer
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer
  • Glottic cancer
  • Supraglottic cancer
  • Subglottic cancer

Diagnosis

To diagnose throat cancer, your doctor will recommend following tests:

  • Physical Examination: The doctor will examine your throat using a scope to get a more intimate look at your throat. The doctor will watch for signs of abnormalities in your throat.
  • Laryngoscopy: The doctor will insert a laryngoscope; a type of miniature camera in your voice box with a magnifying lens to assist your doctor to examine your vocal cords.
  • Biopsy: A tissue is removed for testing to find any abnormalities and check for cancerous tissues.
  • Imaging tests: The doctor may advise you to undergo Imaging tests, including X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET), to determine the spread of the cancer beyond the surface of  throat or voice box.

Treatment

The doctor will decide the treatment options based on the type of cells involved, the location and stage of your throat cancer, your general health, and your personal preferences.

Following are the treatments for throat cancer:

  • Surgery for Throat Cancer: The surgeon will eradicate cancer confined to the surface of the throat or the vocal cords. It is utilized to treat early-stage throat cancer. The doctor may remove the part of your voice box that is affected by cancer or the whole voice box and later reconstruct it to consume food.
  • Radiation treatments: A powerful beam of energy is used to target and eliminate cancerous cells before and after surgery. It is utilized to kill any cancer cells that may be left after surgery. Radiation therapy may be the only treatment necessary for early-stage throat cancers. For more-advanced throat cancers, radiation therapy may be simultaneously used with chemotherapy or surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells and control the growth of cancer cells. In the chemo, a combination of drugs is delivered in a series of treatments over weeks or months, with breaks in between so that you can recover. Chemotherapy provides relief to patients by intake of drugs, which goes into the blood and spread through the body.
  • Targeted Therapy: These drugs mainly affect cancer cells and not healthy cells. These drugs block the abnormalities causing cancer cells to die.
  • Supportive (palliative) care: To provide relief from pain and other symptoms of a critical illness, palliative care is provided. Palliative care can be exercised while undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.

Rehabilitation after treatment

After the procedure for throat cancer, the treatment may lead to causing complications, requiring you to work with specialists to regain the ability to swallow, consume solid foods, and talk. You will have to speak to your doctor to seek help for:

The care of a surgical opening in your throat (stoma) if you underwent a tracheotomy

  • Eating difficulties
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Stiffness and pain in your neck
  • Speech problems

Discuss any discomfort you experience with your doctor to alleviate the pain.

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