Throat Cancer: A rare cancer, throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer. The throat comprises of oropharynx, hypopharynx, nasopharynx, and larynx. Cancer in one or all of these parts of the throat is known as throat cancer. Depending on the part of the throat affected, cancer of throat can be divided into – pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer. Pharyngeal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the pharynx, which is a narrow tube that connects your nose to the windpipe.
Laryngeal cancer is the cancer of the larynx or voice box and is one of the top 10 leading causes of cancer in men. Moreover, men are more likely to develop cancer of throat as compared to women. Let’s try to understand more about this cancer by shedding light on the causes, signs and symptoms of throat cancer.
Cause Of Throat Cancer
Researchers have found smoking to be one of the primary risk factors for throat cancer. However, there are a few other factors which can up your risk of cancer. These include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- HPV infection due to exposure to human Papillomavirus virus via oral sex
- Exposure to asbestos (which is seen in people working in the cement manufacturing industry)
- Lack of proper nutrition or malnutrition
- Inadequate oral/dental hygiene
Smoking And Throat Cancer: How Is It Connected?
Both smoking and smokeless tobacco increase the chances of developing cancer in the mouth and throat. All forms of smoking, such as cigars, cigarettes and pipes, are linked to cancer. Tobacco smoke can not only cause cancer of the mouth and throat, but also the lungs, bladder and other vital organs of the body.
Pipe smoking is further associated with lesions on the lips where the pipe comes in direct contact with the tissue. Smokeless tobacco, on the other hand, is linked with cancers of the cheeks, gums and the inner surface of the lips.
Smoking can not nothing but set you at risk of cancer, but also hamper your immune function. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can weaken the body’s immune system, rendering it harder to kill cancer cells. It results in cancer cells growing at a faster pace and the immune system being ineffective in hold back the growth.
Moreover, these harmful chemicals can transform or damage a cell’s DNA. DNA is said to be the instruction manual of a cell that controls its functioning. When it gets damaged, a cell can begin to grow out of control and lead to a cancer/tumor.
Throat cancer that originates in the squamous cells can penetrate deeper tissues including the muscles. Some types of thyroid cancers can instantly invade nearby structures, such as the trachea. If it is left untreated, the enlarging mass of cells can compress the trachea and thereby cause breathing problems.
Cancer of throat has a more significant chance of metastasizing or spreading to other parts of the main body, including tissues or organs such as the lungs.
Symptoms Of Throat Cancer
When it comes to cancer, it may be difficult to diagnose a cancer based on the initial signs and symptoms of Throat Cancer. And the same is the case with cancer of throat. The signs and symptoms of cancer of throat are multi-fold. Some of the typical and key symptoms include:
- Feeling of the lump in the throat
- Sore throat that does not heal
- Weight loss
- Persistent cough
- Changes in voice; such as hoarseness and not speaking clearly
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
Other symptoms of throat cancer (which may be seen in the later stages of cancer of throat) may include:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Swollen lymph glands
- Blood-flecked phlegm
- The sensation that something is always stuck in the throat
- Throat pain
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as excessive reflux, diarrhea or constipation
If these signs and symptoms of Throat Cancer are experienced by a person, it is imperative to undertake prompt action to consult a doctor and get tested. Since some of the symptoms of throat cancer mirror the symptoms of throat infection, many people do not focus enough attention to the symptoms.
However, it is crucial to consult your doctor if any of these symptoms do not improve in two to three weeks as early detection can carry out a key role in effective treatment (of cancer, if diagnosed).
How Is Throat Cancer Diagnosed?
The first thing your doctor may ask during your appointment is your medical history and symptoms. Post this, physical examination of your throat may be conducted with the help of a mirror to examine the larynx. To check for cancer of throat, an indirect laryngoscopy may be done.
Often known as video-stroboscopy, it is a standardized procedure in which a narrow tube with a camera at the end is inserted through the nose and down the throat to observe the larynx and capture movements of the vocal cord onto the videotape. If the test reveals abnormalities, then a biopsy (a small sample from your throat is sent for examination.) may be advised.
Other tests that may be recommended by our doctor based on the symptoms include X-rays, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI scan, PET scan and some routine blood tests. In some cases, thyroid scan, which is a special X-ray of the thyroid following injection of a radioactive material, is also recommended.
Conclusion And Precaution
If diagnosed early, throat cancer has high survival rates. It may not be curable once cancer cells spread to parts of the body beyond the neck and head. Early detection initiates improved results. Therefore, it is sensible to not ignore the symptoms and stay away from the factors that can up your risk of throat cancer. Stay healthy, stay happy!