Throat cancer can form in many areas. These include the back of the mouth, larynx, tonsils, tongue base, sinuses and nasal cavities, palate, salivary glands, and lymph nodes within the neck. However, these types of cancer incidence and mortality rates have decreased. Throat cancers related to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection are rising, particularly among men.
What is Throat Cancer?
Throat cancer sometimes refers to cancers that begin within the throat or larynx (voice box) and cancers that type within the oesophagus (food pipe) or thyroid. Some cancers that start within the throat space and therefore the tongue, secretion glands, sinuses, nose or ear are categorized as head and neck cancers.
The main parts of the throat include:
The main area of the throat behind the mouth and top of the oesophagus is split into three parts:
- The oropharynx comprises the soft palate, tonsils, and tongue base.
- The nasopharynx is the higher part of the throat behind the nose, over the delicate part of the roof of the mouth.
- The hypopharynx, also known as the laryngopharynx, sits at the tip of the throat, opening the esophagus.
The larynx comprises of three parts:
- The glottis contains the vocal cords.
- The supraglottis is the gap between the voice box and the epiglottis, which acts as a flap to store food out of the system.
- The opening between the vocal cords and the trachea is the subglottis.
Types of Throat Cancer
There are three main forms of throat cancer:
It is a kind of throat cancer that belongs to many diseases known as head and neck cancers. The hypopharynx is the lowest section of the throat, located above the highest of the oesophagus and below the epiglottis (a variety of hinged lids of animal tissue that covers the gap of the trachea once you consume, therefore liquid and food. Don’t find yourself within the lungs).
It is a kind of cancer found within the larynx. Treatment for throat cancer often depends on where the disease forms. Cancer can develop above or below the glottis, the portion of the larynx that contains the vocal cords and the opening between them, or on the vocal cords themselves. In addition to squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, lymphoepithelioma, spindle cell carcinoma, wart carcinoma, undifferentiated carcinoma, and lymphoma are all kinds of throat cancer.
It develops at the back of the throat. It is divided into three categories:
- Nasopharyngeal is a type of cancer that occurs in the top of the neck, behind the nose;
- Oropharyngeal cancer develops in the center of the throat, behind the mouth.
- Hypopharynx cancer forms within the bottom part of the throat, simply higher than the voice box or larynx.
Throat Cancer Symptoms
Following are the key symptoms of throat cancer:
- A cough
- Variations in your voice, such as not speaking clearly or hoarseness
- Trouble swallowing
- A lump or ulcer that doesn’t cure
- A sore throat
- Loss of weight
Causes of Throat Cancer
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human papillomavirus (HPV), shared during oral intercourse, is responsible for more than 70% of all oropharyngeal cancer. However, HPV is not a known risk factor for laryngeal cancer.
Smoking, alcohol intake, and gastroesophageal reflux syndrome are risk factors for throat cancer.
Secondary cancers of the larynx, oesophagus, or lungs are common in throat cancer patients. After treatment is completed, some persons might develop cancer in the mouth, throat, lungs, or other tissues.
Risk Factors For Throat Cancer
People with the following habits, medical history, and lifestyle are more prone to getting throat cancer:
Tobacco use: Cigarettes, pipes and cigars might increase the chance of developing throat cancer.
Alcohol use: Extreme consumption of alcohol might increase the risk of throat cancer.
Lack of vegetables and fruits: A diet low in fruits and vegetables might increase the chance of developing throat cancer.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection: Research has found that HPV infection is answerable for increasing rates of larynx cancer, particularly in patients with oropharyngeal cancer.
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease): When a stomach content enters the oesophagus, it is called acid reflux. The frequency and severity of acid reflux, or GERD, can increase the risk of throat cancer.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): Saliva is used to spread this prevalent virus. Getting Epstein-Barr virus might increase the chance of developing throat cancer.
Check for Throat Cancer
During regular dental check-ups or periodic self-examinations, you may be able to discover oropharyngeal cancers or pre-cancerous diseases in the oropharynx. Early indications of oropharyngeal cancer include mouth or throat sores, lumps, or white spots.
Screening for alternative forms of throat cancer can be more difficult. However, they may detect these cancers early by visiting a doctor when symptoms develop.
How is Throat Cancer Diagnosed?
To diagnose throat cancer, use a scope to check portions of the mouth, nose, neck, and upper digestive system. Among the procedures are:
A tiny, flexible tube approximately the diameter of an index finger is put over the tongue, down the back of the throat, and into the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum using a technology known as fibre optics.
A laryngoscope is used in direct laryngoscopy. The tool is placed into the throat’s back. Flexible or rigid tubes are available. The doctor can view further down into the throat with this procedure and extract a foreign item or tissue sample for biopsy.
A pharyngoscopy is a process that allows the consultant to view your pharynx from the inside. It is a five-inch tubular structure that runs from beneath the nose to the oesophagus and trachea.
- Another diagnostic process is a biopsy (to get a sample of cells or a part of a tumour).
- Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are the two main types of imaging tests.
Throat Cancer Treatment and Therapy Options
The kind and stage of throat cancer, as well as other factors, may influence treatment options. Effective treatments for throat cancer include the following:
Surgery is performed to identify the stage, treat tumors, and control cancer-related disorders. The kind, size, position, grade, and phase of cancer define a patient’s surgical candidacy. It also depends on the patient’s age and health, not whether they have any other disorders or problems.
Chemotherapy is amongst the most popular cancer treatment methods. These anti-cancer medications target cancer cells that quickly proliferate throughout the body or in a particular region.
Drugs designed to search out traits unique to specific cancer cells are used in targeted therapy. Targeted therapy drugs are designed for directly targeting cancer cells or complementing existing cancer treatments.
Radiotherapy is the term for radiation therapy. Doctors use high-energy X-rays and some other methods of radiation therapy to break cancer cells’ DNA, forcing them to die or stop growing and dividing.
Radiation therapy does not target cancer cells right away. The treatment damages or kills the DNA of cancer cells.
Cancer cells differ from normal cells because they do not die in the same way as normal cells do. They split like an out-of-control photocopier that continues to produce images. These abnormal cells alter or mutate regularly, allowing them to evade identification by the immune system. They protect the body against illness and infection.
Cancer immunotherapy medications work by alerting the immune system to these altered cells, allowing it to recognize and eliminate them.
Many patients will have surgery and other cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone therapy. These can be administered before or after surgery to aid in preventing infection.
Survival Rate for Throat Cancer
The 5-year rate for throat cancer assesses the likelihood of surviving for five years after being diagnosed with the disease.
Survival rates for throat cancer are as follows:
Type of Throat Cancer
Starts in the supraglottis (upper part of the larynx)
Starts in the glottis (a portion of the larynx that includes the vocal cords)
Starts in the subglottis (the larynx area below the vocal cords)
Starts in the hypopharynx
According to the American Cancer Society, these figures do not provide a full view and have limitations because they are based on research from a throat cancer population. As a result, survival rates for throat cancer should only be considered approximations and not used to forecast patient outcomes.
On a Final Note
Every cancer patient needs a lot of care and attention along with world-class treatment. This is because not only do they go through some heavy medication, but also a lot of stress. So, other than ensuring that the patient’s condition improves, also try and make sure that his mood remains light.
Even after the patient is finally cured, the weakness in the body is unimaginable. Your role here is to help the patient recover physically as well as mentally from the deadly disease he has been through.