Throat cancer is a rare form of cancer, and according to the National Cancer Institute, it is one of the rarest.
The problem with the condition is that throat cancer symptoms are very common symptoms for other diseases, making it difficult to diagnose at the early stages.
As we know, cancer is a disease that causes abnormal cells to multiply and divide uncontrollably.
The abnormal cells later form tumors, which are essentially malignant growths.
Throat cancer is often also called “cancer of the voice box”. Aside from the voice box, throat cancer can also affect the vocal cords, the tonsils, the oropharynx and other parts of the throat.
There are two categories, symptoms for both are the same. The two categories are pharyngeal cancer, a category that includes the pharynx, and laryngeal cancer, which occupies the larynx.
The first one is more common, with statistics showing that there were 13,510 new cases diagnosed in 2012 and 12,360 new cases of people with laryngeal cancer.
As we mentioned previously, the throat cancer symptoms are very similar to some common illnesses and diseases.
That makes detecting cancer in its early stages difficult and challenging.
Here are some of the common symptoms of throat cancer:
- Changes in the voice, including hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Ear pain
- Weight loss
- A common cough that is persistent and sometimes you can cough blood
- A lump that doesn’t heal
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
When to see a doctor
With that being said, there are times when throat cancer symptoms are persistent and you need to make an appointment at the doctor’s office.
As mentioned, most symptoms are common for other illnesses, not specific for cancer. If the symptoms do not improve over time, it is time to visit the doctor.
Diagnosing throat cancer
During your appointment, the doctor will ask you for your throat cancer symptoms, but also about your medical history.
The initial exam for throat cancer is laryngoscopy, a procedure that provides the doctor with a closer view of the throat.
Before the procedure, your doctor will give you a local anesthetic, after which he/she will insert a long flexible tube down your throat. Using a light and a mirror, your doctor will examine your throat and take a sample to test it for cancer.
There are other tests that the doctor might elect to conduct, and those include chest X-ray, CT scan of the chest, MRI of the head or the neck, PET scan, CT scan of head and neck.
Risk factors for throat cancer
According to statistics, men are more likely to develop throat cancer. Other groups that are more likely to develop the disease are people over 50.
However, aside from those two “risk groups”, there are lifestyle habits that vastly increase the risk of developing throat cancer symptoms.
The risks include vitamin A deficiency, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, poor dental hygiene, and exposure to asbestos.
We also must point that the Cancer Treatment Centers of America consider there is a link between throat cancer in men and cervical cancer in women and human papillomavirus infections (HPV infections).