Throat Cancer: Signs, Symptoms, and Prevention

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Cancer refers to a class of diseases triggered by abnormal cells. The abnormal cells divide and multiply uncontrollably in the body. This causes growths called tumors.

Throat cancer affects the voice box, the vocal cords and neighboring parts of the throat. Throat cancer is classified into two categories: pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer.

Pharyngeal cancer occurs when malignant tumors grow in the pharynx. The pharynx runs from behind the nose to the top of the windpipe. On the other hand, laryngeal cancer occurs when malignant tumors form in the voice box or larynx.

Throat cancer is not as common as prostate, lung or breast cancer. In 2012, only about 12,360 new cases of laryngeal cancer were reported to the National Cancer Institute. The agency reports that there were only 13,510 new cases of pharyngeal cancer in 2012.

Causes of Throat Cancer

Men are more likely to develop throat cancer than women. This type of cancer is more common in people age 50 and above. It’s often caused by a variety of lifestyle habits. These habits include cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and exposure to asbestos. Poor dental habits and vitamin A deficiency could also lead to throat cancer.

Some studies also suggest that human papillomavirus infection or HPV could cause throat cancer. Human papillomavirus infection is a sexually transmitted virus that affects women.

Signs and Symptoms of Throat Cancer

It’s hard to detect throat cancer during its early stages. The following signs to watch out for includes a subtle change in your voice. Other symptoms include difficulty in swallowing, persistent sore throat and cough. Wheezing, unexplained weight loss and swollen lymph nodes could also point to throat cancer. If you experienced these symptoms and you suspect something is not right, have yourself checked by a doctor. Proper diagnosis is needed to treat any forms of cancer.

Treatment for Throat Cancer

The severity of the condition is the basis of the treatment. If the tumor is small, it will be surgically removed. After surgery, your doctor will recommend radiation therapy. This helps eliminate cancer cells from forming more tumors. Radiation therapy works by using high energy rays.

If there are numerous malignant tumors or if the tumors spread to neighboring organs, you will go through chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug that will kill cancer cells. It will also decrease the spreading of malignant cells to other parts of the body.

Preventing Throat Cancer

A healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent throat cancer. Cutting back or minimizing alcohol drinking is a great way to start. Quitting smoking is even better. Chemical compounds found in cigarette smoke causes cancer. By quitting, you minimize the risk of developing all types of cancers.

It also helps to give your throat a rest. Always drink water and try not to yell, scream or talk for extended periods of time. There is a reason why throat cancer is so common among public speakers, entertainers, and communications specialists. If your job requires you to talk all the time, it increases the risk of developing throat cancer.


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