Throat Cancer Symptoms

According to recent statistics, laryngeal cancer affects more than 12,290 adults in the US. This is the most common form of head and neck cancer. Forecasts based on extrapolations indicate that more and more adults will die of this cancer every year in the future. Throat cancer affects the pharynx and the larynx. The pharynx is the throat, and the larynx is the voice box located below the throat. Most often, part of the larynx is visible in males and is referred to as the “Adam’s apple”. The larynx is made out of cartilage. The vocal cords are located in the larynx, and when air passes through them, this enables speech. Throat cancer affects the larynx, epiglottis and the tonsils.

Understanding Cancer

Cancer is a disease that invades and multiplies abnormal cells uncontrollably throughout the body. It is a disease that affects various parts of the body and most cancers are named after the organ they originate from. For example, if cancer originates from the lungs it is lung cancer and cancer that originates in the liver is liver cancer, etc. There are more than 100 kinds of cancer. There are also several categories of cancer. These are divided into carcinoma (cancer of the skin), sarcoma (cancer of the cartilage, bone, fat etc), and leukaemia (cancer of the blood), lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) and cancer of the central nervous system. In our natural biological system, the cells grow, divide and die and are replaced by new cells. However, this does not occur in cancer. Sometimes, the cells damage or change and mutate. This affects normal cell growth. When this occurs, cells do not die as normal, and new cells form without the need, forming malignant growths. These extra, unwanted cells form together and become a tumor. No exact cause for such cell mutation has been identified but many factors such as prolonged exposure to and intake of toxic substances, viral attacks and cell scaring are considered to be responsible.

Understanding Laryngeal Cancer

The larynx plays a vital role in breathing, swallowing and talking. Throat cancer begins anywhere in the throat. However, it very often begins in the voice box. Laryngeal cancer is extremely common in individuals over the age of 60. However, it is not restricted to this age limit. Pharyngeal cancer is divided into many types depending on its state of progression, the location and symptoms. These are nasopharyngeal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, hypopharyngeal cancer, glottis cancer, supraglottic cancer and subglottic cancer.

Although the exact cause of pharyngeal or laryngeal cancer is unknown, certain factors contribute to its development. These include age, smoking, long-term exposure to certain chemicals, excessive alcohol intake and the human papiloma virus (HPV).

Symptoms of Throat Cancer

Throat cancer symptoms depend on the size and location of the cancer. However, there are common throat cancer symptoms that indicate the disease. A hoarse voice that does not change for more than 3 weeks is usually the first symptom associated with laryngeal cancer. This is due to laryngeal cancer often beginning on the vocal cords. A tumor above the vocal cords causes a lump in the throat and an earache, which is another symptom of laryngeal cancer. In rare cases, tumors begin below the vocal cords. This causes breathing difficulties and noise when breathing. Another symptom of laryngeal cancer is a persistent cough and a feeling of a lump in throat. If these throat cancer symptoms are not looked into, the tumor grows causing further symptoms such as pain, weight loss and bad breath. However, these symptoms may occur as a result of other less serious medical conditions. Therefore, medical attention is necessary to rule out pharyngeal or laryngeal cancer.

Diagnosing and Treating Laryngeal Cancer

Diagnosis of laryngeal cancer requires an endoscopy or laryngoscopy. A biopsy may be carried out for further confirmation along with MRIs, X-rays, CT scans and PET scans. Treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery and targeted drug therapy are treatment options considered with a positive throat cancer diagnosis.

Laryngeal cancer is treatable if detected in the early stages. Therefore, any throat cancer symptoms experienced should be brought to immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis prevents the spread of the disease and increases recovery rate dramatically.

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