The Hows and Whats of Throat Cancer

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The Hows and Whats of Throat Cancer

The Hows and Whats of Throat Cancer

The passage which leads from the back of the mouth of a person is the throat. It is a muscular tube that starts from behind the nose and ends in the neck. Throat cancer generally begins as cancerous tumors in the throat (pharynx), the voice box (larynx) or the tonsils. Throat cancer starts in the flat cells that line up inside of the throat.

Symptoms of Throat Cancer

The symptoms of throat cancer are determined according to the location of the tumor. The symptoms are:

Sore throat: Pain or discomfort in the throat

Voice change: Voice sounds different, may have a cold continuously or a husky voice; and at times, trouble in speaking.

Trouble in swallowing: Pain and trouble while chewing. May have a burning sensation, and the food might stick in the throat.

Lump in the neck: lymph nodes get enlarged, and a lump can develop in the neck.

Weight loss: As it is difficult to swallow and chew, one can lose weight.

Other Signs: a white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth; headache, bleeding of the nose, trouble while open the mouth or moving the tongue

Causes of Throat Cancer:

  • Throat cancer occurs when cells in the throat develop genetic mutations.
  • These cells grow uncontrollably even when healthy cells normally die.
  • Finally, they form into a tumour in the throat.

Types of Throat Cancer:

Nasopharyngeal cancer: This cancer starts in the part of the throat that is just behind the nose, above the roof of the mouth. It connects the nose to the mouth, and people breathe through the nose.


  1. swelling in the neck region
  2. continuous headache
  3. nose gets blocked and bleeds
  4. Ringing sounds in the ears

Risk Factors

Any age or mostly above 50 years, affects men and women


Radiation therapy, combined with chemotherapy, if the tumor comes back, surgery is required.

Oropharyngeal cancer: It starts right behind the mouth and also includes the tonsils. HPV, which is sexually transmitted causes 70% of oropharyngeal cancers. Smoking and chewing tobacco can be the cause too.


  1. sore throat and change in voice
  2. earache
  3. pain while swallowing
  4. weight loss


diagnosed early can be treated

3 types of treatments are suggested-surgery, radiation therapy and medication

Many doctors form a team to treat it, like—Oncologists, Otoparyngologist( specialist in ear, nose, and throat ), Plastic surgeon, a specialist of the neck and head areas.

Hypopharyngeal cancer: starts in the lower part of the throat, above the windpipe and esophagus. On account of its location, it is diagnosed only in an advanced stage.


  1. voice changes, a lump in the neck is noticed
  2. breathing difficulty
  3. sore throat
  4. difficulty in swallowing
  5. ear pain
  6. weight loss


radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery and other types of treatments as planned by a multidisciplinary team of doctors and health care professionals.

Glottic cancer: This cancer starts in the vocal cords. It is one of the most common cancers. Patients require a thorough nose, ear and throat examination.

Stages of Glottis Cancer:

Stage I: The tumor is within the vocal cords.

Stage 2: The tumor has grown into the larynx above the vocal cords.

Stage 3: The tumor has grown near the larynx and the vocal cords don’t move.

Cancer has spread to the nearby lymph node, and the size is not more than 3cm.

 Glottic cancer, if not treated on time, can cause a few complications after treatment.


Chemoradiation therapy: Complaints of pain, difficulty in swallowing, swelling, depression, speech issues and lifestyle also changes.

Surgery: The patient can have bleeding, infection, swelling, pneumonia damage to the nerve, and patients have to adapt to eating, breathing and speaking.

If the patient is appropriately educated of these complications, he can face it bravely.

  1. Supraglottic cancer—starts in the upper portion of the larynx. On account of its location after treatment (Surgery, chemotherapy or radiation ) it might affect the function of the larynx or speech, swallowing and breathing. Alcohol and tobacco are the main reasons for this cancer.
  2. Subglottic cancer—starts in the lower part of the voice box, below the vocal cords. The treatment is on radiotherapy and Surgery. This cancer is rare and to identify the has a hoarse voice, pain in the head and neck regions.

Risk Factors of Throat Cancer

The factors that can increase the throat cancer are

  • Smoking, chewing of tobacco.
  • Alcohol-too much of consumption.
  • It’s also a sexually transmitted.
  • No proper diet of fruits and vegetables is eaten.
  • Men are more prone than women.
  • Age above 65 years,
  • Exposure to chemicals like asbestos, nickel and sulfuric acid fumes.

Diagnosis for throat cancer the treating doctor checks and questions about the general health, smoking, drinking and sexual history. Examines the throat and conducts a few tests.

A biopsy is done with surgery, fine needles, an endoscope a tube with a camera is sent into the throat from the nose or mouth. A tool at the end will take the biopsy.

Tests like MRI OR CT scan; PET scan; and X-rays can show the size of the tumor.

Stages of Throat Cancer

Stages I and II are smaller cancers that remain in one area of the throat.

Stage III—when it has spread to the lymph nodes and the other parts of the throat.

Stage IV—cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, head, neck or chest.

This is the most dangerous stage as it has travelled to the lungs and liver.

Treatment of Throat Cancer:

Throat cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer in the world. Males are more affected with it and above 40 years, who are chain smokers and consume a lot of alcohol and gutkha.

Surgery is done to remove the cancer or radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of all the three treatments.


  • Is throat cancer hereditary?

Ans) No, it is not hereditary as it is caused by smoking.

  • Does throat cancer spread fast?

Ans) This cancer spreads fast and becomes difficult to breathe, speak and swallow. So to get it treated is better for a good life ahead. 

  • Is stage 4 throat cancer curable?

Ans) The 4th stage is the most advanced stage of throat cancer, and it means it has spread beyond the throat, like to the mouth, thyroid, jaw, neck and the liver or lungs. A person can survive for five years.

  • Can throat cancer be treated completely?

Ans) I, II, and some III stages of throat cancer can be treated with surgery, radiotherapy chemotherapy, biological therapy or a combination of all.

Though people are aware of the dangers of smoking and heavy drinking, they are not knowledgeable about the risks of the different stages. So an urgent need is there to spread the awareness of the effects of throat cancer.