Throat Cancer is sometimes called Laryngeal Cancer. However, the throat includes the larynx and other nearby structures. Cancer of the larynx is just one type of cancer that can occur in the throat. Throat Cancer symptoms may be difficult to identify in the early stages of the disease. Many of the symptoms are the same as a cold or sore throat.
Common Symptoms of Throat Cancer
- Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia
- Changes in your voice
- Sore throat
- Bleeding in the mouth or through the nose
- Swelling of the eyes, jaw, throat or neck
- Chronic cough
- Unexplainable weight loss
Some Throat Cancer symptoms are specific to certain areas of the body. For instance, changes in your voice may be a sign of laryngeal (voice box) cancer, but would rarely indicate cancer of the pharynx.
Different Types of Throat Cancer
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx occurs in more than 9 in 10 cases. This type arises from cells which are on the inside lining of the larynx.
- Other types. There are some rare types of cancer which arise from other types of cells within the larynx. For example, adenocarcinoma of the larynx arises from cells in the tiny glands in the wall of the larynx that make mucus. There are some other very rare types.
Throat cancer that originates in the squamous cells can invade deeper tissues including muscles. Some types of Thyroid Cancers can quickly invade nearby structures, such as the trachea. If it is not treated, the enlarging tumour can compress the trachea and cause breathing problems. Throat Cancer may metastasise (spread) to other tissues or organs of the body such as the lung.
Treatment usually depends on the size, type and location of the cancer and whether it has spread, but can include:
- Surgery – the tumour is surgically removed. This may require the partial or total removal of the thyroid, tissue or muscle, or the entire larynx (laryngectomy) or tongue (glossectomy), depending on the location and size of the tumour. Nearby lymph glands may also need to be taken out if the cancer has spread to these.
- Radiation Therapy – small, precise doses of radiation target and destroy cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy – the use of cancer-killing drugs, often in combination with Radiotherapy. Chemotherapy can be helpful in controlling cancers that have spread (metastases) because the whole body is treated.
- Multi-modality or adjuvant treatments – such as surgery followed by radiotherapy, or chemo-radiotherapy, especially in the case of large tumours.
- Long term monitoring – this may include regular examinations and x-rays to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back.
- Rehabilitation therapy – this may include assistance from a dietitian, speech therapist and physiotherapist. Social workers, counsellors and clinical psychologists can help patients come to terms with the post-operative changes to their finances, social and professional lives, and appearance.
It has been established that men are more likely to develop Throat Cancer than women. Certain lifestyle habits also increase the risk of developing cancer of the throat. These include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, vitamin A deficiency and others.
If you have been diagnosed with Throat Cancer, and find that none of the conventional treatment options mentioned above is suited for you, please contact us and a member of our medical team will advise you accordingly.