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Throat Cancer

What is Throat Cancer?

Throat cancer is a condition where cancer affects the vocal cords, voice box (larynx), or other areas of the throat.

Cancer is a group of more than 100 different diseases. Cancer affects the body's basic unit, the cell. Cancer occurs when cells become abnormal and keep dividing and forming more cells without control or order.

What Causes Throat Cancer? 

Throat cancers is often caused by excessive tobacco use and/or excessive alcohol use.

Symptoms of Throat Cancer

The most common symptoms of throat cancer are:

  • Hoarseness that does not resolve in 1 to 2 weeks
  • Sore throat that does not resolve in 1 to 2 weeks, even with antibiotics
  • Neck pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Unexplained cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds

How is Throat Cancer Diagnosed?

If your doctor believes you may have throat cancer, he will order a series of tests. A laryngoscopy will be conducted. A laryngoscopy is an examination by use of a tube with a small lighted camera. A cranial CT scan and/or cranial MRI may also be conducted. These tests will help determine if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.

Your doctor may also conduct a biopsy to analyze tissues that may be cancerous. A biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination. Biopsies are used to help diagnose disease.

Can Throat Cancer be Treated? 

Yes. Treatment is aimed at destruction of the cancer cells and prevention of spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.

Some common treatment options are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

If the tumor that contains the cancer cells is small, either surgery or radiation therapy alone can be used to eliminate the tumor. If the tumor is not small, or has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, a more aggressive treatment of radiation and chemotherapy is often needed.

In some cases, surgery is needed to remove the tumor and vocal cords is necessary. If the vocal cords are removed, artificial vocal cords may be implanted into the throat.

Complications of Throat Cancer

Some common complications of throat cancer are:

  • Airway obstruction
  • Loss of voice and speaking ability
  • Disfigurement of the neck or face
  • Hardening of the skin of the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Spread of the cancer to other body areas

Can Throat Cancer be Prevented? 

One of the bests ways to reduce your risk of developing throat cancer is to minimize or avoid smoking and excess alcohol use.


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