Throat Cancer

Throat cancer is a broad term used to describe cancerous tumors in the throat, voice box or tonsils. While cancer can be found anywhere, throat cancers often begin in the flat cells that line the throat.

The first signs of throat cancer are: cough, changes in voice, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, a sore throat and weight loss. Since these symptoms can be associated with many conditions it is important to seek medical attention if they do not resolve in a timely manner.

Throat cancer occurs when a genetic mutation causes the cells to grow uncontrollably. These cells continue to live long after healthy cells would normally die; together these cells form a tumor. While the exact cause of the mutation is unknown, tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, human papillomavirus, gastroesophageal reflux disease and a diet lacking fruits and vegetables have all been shown to increase your rick.

A few tests are needed in order to determine a diagnosis. A lighted scope, called an endoscope, is used in an endoscopy. A small camera is inserted down your throat in order to get a better look. If any abnormalities are found during this procedure surgical instruments are passed through the endoscope to collect a sample; this is called a biopsy. This sample is sent to the laboratory for testing. Imaging tests, such as an X-ray, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) may be ordered to determine if the cancer has spread.

Many factors, such as the severity and location of the cancer, are taken into consideration when creating a treatment plan. Radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy are the most common treatments.

Radiation therapy uses high-level energy beams to deliver radiation to the cancer cells, causing them to die. This may be used by itself, more common with early-stage cancers, or in combination with other treatments.

Surgery may be used to remove just the cancerous cells or the cells and a piece of your throat. There are a number of different types of operations, depending on the location of the cancer cells. Some may also need their lymph nodes removed if the cancer spread that far.

Chemotherapy is a concentration of drugs used to kill the cancer cells. Often, chemotherapy is used to make the cancer cells more sensitive to the radiation therapy.

Targeted drug therapy is still in the clinical testing phase. Some have been approved but they can only treat certain cancers in certain locations.

If you would like additional information about what can be done to lower your risk for throat cancer or would like to schedule an appointment, contact our office at 337-266-9820.