Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that develops in the throat (pharynx) or voice box (larynx). Throat cancer is known by several different names, depending on which part of the throat is affected. The different parts of the throat are called the oropharynx, the hypopharynx, the nasopharynx, and the larynx or voice box.
Throat cancer is a general term that applies to cancer, developing in the throat or in the voice box. Though most throat cancers involve the same types of cells, specific terms are used to differentiate the part of the throat where the cancer started.
- Nasopharyngeal cancer: This begins in the nasopharynx.
- Oropharyngeal cancer: This starts in the oropharynx.
- Hypopharyngeal cancer (laryngopharyngeal cancer): This begins in the hypopharynx (laryngopharynx).
- Glottic cancer: This begins in the vocal cords.
- Supraglottic cancer: This starts in the upper portion of the voice box.
- Subglottic cancer: This begins in the lower portion of the voice box, below your vocal cords.
Signs and symptoms of throat cancer include the following:
- Change in the voice
- Trouble swallowing
- Weight loss
- Sore throat
- The constant need to clear the throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Wheezing lymph nodes in the neck
- Ear pain
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consult a doctor immediately.
Below are the factors that may increase the risk of developing throat cancer:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Chewing betel quid and gutkha
- High body weight (obesity)
- Being older
- Having genetic syndromes such as Fanconi anaemia or dyskeratosis congenita
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Oral hygiene
The doctor examines the patient and asks questions about general health, smoking and drinking habits, sexual history and overall medical history. To get a closer look at the throat, the doctor may use advanced medical devices. If the doctor thinks the patient might have throat cancer, then the doctor suggests tests and procedures depending on what kind of cancer they suspect. The most common tests and procedures the doctor uses to diagnose throat cancer include:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
The doctor first tries to get rid of the tumours, stop cancer from spreading, and protect the ability to swallow and speak as much as possible. The treatment of throat cancer depends on the stage of cancer, where it is, the overall general health of the patient, and his/her preferences. The doctor may use one or more treatments that include:
- Targeted therapy drugs