Throat Cancer

Throat Cancer

Caused when malignant cells affect the lining of the throat, larynx and tonsils, throat cancers commonly cause ear pain, painful swallowing and hoarseness. The throat, or pharynx, and our larynx, which houses our vocal cords, are so close together that they are often grouped together as throat cancers. When throat cancer is caught early, cancerous tumors can be removed with specialized surgical tools that can scrape them off. Quit smoking today to reduce your risk for developing throat cancer. More severe cases of throat cancers require the complete or partial removal of the larynx, throat or affected lymph nodes. Alcohol abuse, poor dental hygiene and exposure to asbestos also increase your risk for developing a throat cancer.

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    You can lower your chances of getting throat cancer by making lifestyle changes. Quit smoking or chewing tobacco to lower your risk. Help is available for those who want to stop using tobacco. Don't start smoking if you don't smoke currently. Do not drink alcohol if you are concerned about throat cancer. Eat a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, and limit your exposure to hazardous chemicals. If you are at risk for throat cancer, talk to your doctor about whether frequent checkups are necessary.

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    Throat cancer symptoms can be caused by other diseases. If you are concerned, talk with your doctor. Be prepared with a list of questions to ask your doctor during your visit. Also write down any important information for the doctor about your medical history. If you are diagnosed with throat cancer, the doctor will use this medical information to help plan your treatment.

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    A Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology), answered on behalf of
    The symptoms of throat cancer are usually quite benign. There may be some hoarseness or a slight feeling of fullness in your throat. However, there won’t be any symptoms that definitely identify the problem as throat cancer. Nevertheless, you do need to pay attention to your body’s changes. Therefore anything that lasts more than three weeks in the throat, like hoarseness, pain or a feeling of fullness, should be checked out by your local otolaryngologist or your ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT).

    Throat cancer is an unlikely cause of these types of symptoms, so it’s dangerous to say that they are a definite indication of throat cancer. But if the symptoms persist for about three weeks, it is worth having them checked out.
     
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    The doctor will ask about your medical history and examine your neck and throat. Diagnostic tests may also be used. The doctor may perform an endoscopy, which uses a lighted scope and allows closer examination of the throat or voice box. You may be asked for blood or urine samples to be tested. A variety of imaging tests may also be used, including MRI, CAT scans, PET scans or x-rays. The doctor may also take a tissue sample from your throat that will be tested for cancerous cells. This test, called a biopsy, is the only way to make a definite cancer diagnosis.

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    A Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology), answered on behalf of

    People who have a persistent sore throat or enlarged lymphnodes should be examined. Getting screened is quick and painless. Doctors place a very thin, flexible telescope, the size of a piece of spaghetti, with a miniature camera on its tip, into the nose to examine the throat structures, including the vocal cords.

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    Help is available for those coping with throat cancer. Rehabilitation can lessen the physical effects of treatment. Counseling and spiritual support can help people deal with the emotional aspects of living with throat cancer. Being informed about the condition can also help people to feel more in control of their treatment. Staying healthy and keeping the body in good physical condition can also help people to cope with throat cancer.

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    A number of risk factors for throat cancer have been identified. They include:

    • Tobacco use, especially chewing tobacco or snuff
    • Drinking alcohol excessively
    • Asbestos exposure
    • Exposure to wood dust or other industrial irritants
    • Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts
    • Not enough fruits and vegetables in the diet.
    • Poor dental care
    • X-rays of the head or neck.

    Tobacco and alcohol use are the greatest risk factors for throat cancer. Also, people who use both tobacco and alcohol are more likely to develop throat cancer than people who use only one or the other. Certain ethnic groups may be more likely to develop some types of throat cancer. If you believe you are at risk for throat cancer, see your doctor and ask about ways to reduce your risk.

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    In general, people older than 50 are more likely to develop throat cancer. However, use of smokeless tobacco is the most prevalent in people between 18 and 24. Smokeless tobacco use is one of the greatest risk factors for developing throat cancer. There are 28 different chemicals that cause cancer in chewing tobacco and snuff. Like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, which is an addictive substance. Nicotine from smokeless tobacco stays in the system longer and is absorbed in greater quantities than nicotine from cigarettes.

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    Yes, HPV infection has been linked to oral, head and neck cancers, specifically oropharyngeal cancers of the tonsils and tongue base. The primary mode of transmission is thought to be oral-genital contact with an infected sexual partner. Men experience HPV-related oral cancers at a higher rate than women. Also, these cancers are more common among smokers and those who use alcohol. 

    Oral cancers of the throat are harder to diagnose because they often do not have symptoms until they are in later stages. There are also no specific tests to diagnose these cancers if a person is asymptomatic. 

    The best way to protect yourself against HPV-related disease is to limit lifetime sexual partners, use condoms with every sex act, choose partners that do not have multiple other partners, and limit tobacco and alcohol use.  

     

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    Throat cancer can affect the body differently depending on the part of the throat where cancer develops. Cancer of the voice box can cause pain in the ears or pain when swallowing. If cancer affects the salivary glands, it can cause swelling near the jaw and chin and pain, numbness or paralysis of the facial muscles. Cancer in other parts of the throat can cause persistent pain or other symptoms that don't subside after about two weeks. Certain cancer treatments may cause additional affects on the body, including difficulty speaking, swallowing or eating. Physical therapy may be needed in these cases.