throat cancer

Throat Cancer or Larynx cancer – Its Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

Throat Cancer is also called as Vocal cord cancer, Larynx cancer, Cancer of the glottis. Throat cancer is a specific type of cancer of the vocal cords, voice box (larynx), or other areas of the throat.

Cause of Throat Cancer

The cause of throat cancer is quiet clear; people who smoke or otherwise use tobacco are at risk of developing throat cancer.

Excessive alcohol use also increases risk. Smoking and drinking alcohol combined lead to an extreme risk for the development of throat cancer. Knowing that drinking alcohol and smoking are difficult habits to overcome.

There are many treatment options for someone addicted, including rehab facilities, or maybe even just the support of the family. Every person is different, research what would be the best fit for yourself or a loved one.

Most of the throat cancer develop in adults older than 50. Men are 10 times more likely than women to develop throat cancer.

Throat Cancer Symptoms or Signs of Throat Cancer

The risks of developing throat cancer increased if person is a frequent user of alcohol, cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. Cancer of the throat involves tumors on the tonsils, vocal cords, voice box (larynx) and at the base of the tongue.

The earlier throat cancer is diagnosed, the better the prospect of recovery. The symptoms of throat cancer are often confused with less serious conditions.

The throat cancer symptoms or signs of throat cancer depend mainly on the size of the tumor and where it is in the larynx. Listed below are some common symptoms one may notice:

  • A hoarseness or other unusual changes in the voice
  • A lump on the lip, in the mouth, or in the throat
  • Persistent pain in the mouth or difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving the tongue
  • A sore on the lip or inside the mouth that does not heal for weeks
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or the lining in the mouth
  • Unexplained pain, bleeding, or numbness inside the mouth
  • A sore throat that persist even with antibiotics or feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • Experiencing pain or difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • Difficulty moving the jaw ,pain or swelling of the jaw
  • Thickening of the cheek
  • Pain around the teeth, or loosening of the teeth
  • A persistent cough
  • Cough up blood
  • Pain or swelling of the neck
  • A continual earache
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Bad breath followed by abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
  • Numbness of the tongue or elsewhere in the mouth
  • Changes in the voice
  • Earache

An early indication of oral and throat cancer is one or more changes in the way the soft tissues of the mouth usually look or feel. Most oral cancers arise on the lips, tongue or on the floor of the mouth. They also may occur inside the cheeks, on the gums or on the roof of the mouth. Majority of the above mentioned throat cancer symptoms are common with head & neck cancer also.

Some of the common symptoms are trouble  breathing, trouble with speaking, pain in the ears and frequent headaches. Also include sinuses that are blocked and will not clear, bleeding through the nose, pain in the upper teeth, headaches, and swelling in the eyes, chronic sinus infections that do not go away when treated with antibiotics. Also numbness or paralysis of the muscles in the face, include pain that does not go away in the face and neck.

Throat Cancer treatment

Throat cancer treatment is aimed completely at destruction of the cancer and prevention of spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.

A neck or cranial CT scan or cranial MRI may show throat cancer. These tests will also help determine if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.

Biopsy and analysis of tissues that appear abnormal may confirm the presence of a cancerous tumor.

An examination of the neck and throat may show cancer of the throat. The sputum may appear bloody. A lump may appear on the outside of the neck.

When the throat tumor is small, either surgery or radiation therapy alone can be used to eliminate the tumor. A laryngoscopy, which is examination by use of a tube with a small lighted camera (laryngoscope), allows the physician to look into the mouth and down the throat to see the tumor.

When the tumor is larger or has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, combination radiation and chemotherapy is often used to preserve the voice box and is successful in most cases.

Removal of the tumor on surgery, including all or part of the vocal cords (laryngectomy) may be necessary in some cases. If a laryngectomy is required, a surgical prosthesis (artificial vocal cords) may be implanted, voice aids may be used, or speech therapy may be recommended to teach alternative methods of speaking.

Many throat cancer or larynx cancer patients also need swallowing therapy after treatment to help them adjust to the changes in the structure of the throat.

Methods of treatment for Throat Cancer or Larynx Cancer

Throat Cancer or Larynx Cancer may be treated with radiation therapy, surgery, or chemotherapy. Some throat cancer patients have a combination of therapies.

Radiation therapy also called radiotherapy In this type of treatment high-energy x-rays are used to kill cancer cells. The rays are aimed at the tumor and the tissue around it. Radiation therapy is local therapy. It affects cells only in the treated area. Treatments are usually given 5 days a week for 5 to 8 weeks.

Radiation therapy alone: In some cases radiation therapy is used alone for small tumors or for throat cancer patients who cannot have surgery.

Radiation therapy combined with surgery: Radiation therapy may be used to shrink a large tumor before surgery or to destroy cancer cells that may remain in the area after surgery. If a tumor grows back after surgery, it is often treated with radiation.

Radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy: Radiation therapy may be used before, during, or after chemotherapy.
After radiation therapy, some people need feeding tubes placed into the abdomen. The feeding tube is usually temporary.

Surgery may be defined as an operation in which a doctor removes the cancer using a scalpel or laser while the throat cancer patient is asleep. When patients need surgery, the type of operation depends mainly on the size and exact location of the tumor.

The method of surgery to remove part or entire larynx is called Laryngectomy.

There are several types of laryngectomy:

Total laryngectomy: The surgeon removes the entire larynx.

Partial laryngectomy (hemilaryngectomy): The surgeon removes part of the larynx.

Supraglottic laryngectomy: The surgeon takes out the supraglottis, the top part of the larynx.

Cordectomy: The surgeon removes one or both vocal cords.

Sometimes lymph node dissection is done were the surgeon also removes the lymph nodes in the neck. The surgeon also may remove the thyroid.

During surgery for throat cancer or larynx cancer, the surgeon may need to make a stoma. This surgery is called a tracheostomy. The stoma is a new airway through an opening in the front of the neck. Air enters and leaves the windpipe (trachea) and lungs through this opening.

A tracheostomy tube, also called a trach (“trake”) tube, keeps the new airway open. For many throat cancer or larynx cancer patients, the stoma is temporary. It is needed only until the patient recovers from surgery.

After surgery, some people may need a temporary feeding tube.

The stoma is the new opening into the trachea.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The doctor may suggest one drug or a combination of drugs. The drugs for throat cancer or larynx cancer are usually given by injection into the bloodstream. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.

Chemotherapy is used to treat throat cancer or larynx cancer in several ways:

Before surgery or radiation therapy: In some cases, drugs are given to try to shrink a large tumor before surgery or radiation therapy.

After surgery or radiation therapy: Chemotherapy may be used after surgery or radiation therapy to kill any cancer cells that may be left. It also may be used for cancers that have spread.

Instead of surgery: Chemotherapy may be used with radiation therapy instead of surgery. The larynx is not removed and the voice is spared.

Chemotherapy may be given in an outpatient part of the hospital, at the doctor’s office, or at home. Rarely, a hospital stay may be needed.

Side effects of treatment for Throat Cancer/Larynx Cancer

Cancer treatments are very powerful. Treatments that remove or destroy cancer cells are likely to damage healthy cells, too. That’s why treatments often cause side effects. This section describes some of the side effects of each kind of treatment.

Side effects of treatment for throat cancer may not be the same for each person, and they may even change from one treatment session to the next.

Radiation therapy

People treated with radiation therapy may have some or all of these side effects:

Dry mouth, sore throat or mouth, delayed healing after dental care, tooth decay, changes in sense of taste and smell, fatigue, changes in voice quality, skin changes in treated area.

Surgery

People who have surgery may have any of these side effects:

Pain, low energy, swelling in the throat, swallowing may be difficult, increased mucus production, numbness, stiffness, or weakness, changes in physical appearance.

Chemotherapy

Side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the specific drugs and the dose. In general, anticancer drugs affect cells that divide rapidly:

Blood cells: These cells fight infection, help the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. If the blood cells are affected, one is more likely to get infections, may bruise or bleed easily, and may feel very weak and tired.

Cells in hair roots: Chemotherapy can lead to hair loss, but hair will grow back. However, the new hair may be different in color and texture.
Cells that line the digestive tract: Chemotherapy can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth and lip sores.

Prognosis Throat Cancer

The overall prognosis of Throat cancer is good. Throat cancer or Larynx Cancer can be almost be cured in 90% of patients if detected early. The percentage of recovery depends on the extremity of the cancer. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes in the neck, 50-60% of patients can be cured.

If the cancer has spread (metastasized) to parts of the body outside the head and neck, the cancer is not curable and treatment is aimed at prolonging quality of life. After treatment patients generally need therapy to help with speech and swallowing. A small percentage of patients will not be able to swallow and will need to be fed through a feeding tube.

Throat Cancer Prevention

Throat cancer prevention is done to lower the risk of the disease. People who smoke or otherwise use tobacco are at risk of developing tumors of the throat thus leading to Throat Cancer or Larynx Cancer. Excessive alcohol use also increases risk. Smoking and alcohol use together constitute an extreme risk for the development of Throat Cancer or Larynx Cancer.