Cancer is one of the leading diseases that result in death in not only the United States each year but also across the world. There has been no definitive cure found for cancer but some treatments and therapies have been found to work better than others on certain forms of cancer. The survival rate for cancer depends on the stage the disease is in when it has been discovered in the body of the patient. One form of cancer, which is diagnosed in roughly 24,000 Americans each year, is known as throat cancer. Throat cancer affects the throat (pharynx) or the voice box (larynx). Half of the cases diagnosed each year affect the pharynx and the other half affects the larynx.
The symptoms of throat cancer include one or more of the following:
- Changes in voice such as hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- Lump or sore that does not heal
- Sore throat
- Unexplained weight loss
If any of these symptoms or new ones last for more than two weeks consult a physician immediately. These symptoms are also synonymous with the flu, a cold, strep throat and laryngitis so you might not have throat cancer but instead an illness that can be cured with antibiotics. Experts have not been able to identify what causes the cells in the throat to mutate and form a tumor. There are six main forms of throat cancer and they are as follows:
- Nasopharyngeal Cancer: this form of cancer begins in the nasopharynx, which is the part of the throat just behind the nose.
- Oropharyngeal Cancer: this form of cancer begins in the oropharynx, which is the part of the throat that is directly behind the mouth.
- Hypopharyngeal Cancer: this form of cancer begins in the hypopharynx, which is the lower part of the throat, just above the esophagus and the windpipe.
- Glottic Cancer: this form of cancer begins in the vocal cords.
- Supraglottic Cancer: this form of cancer begins in the upper area of the larynx and includes cancer that affects the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a piece of cartilage that blocks food from entering the windpipe.
- Subglottic Cancer: this form of cancer begins in the lower area of the voice box, which is below the vocal cords.
The factors that increase the risk of dev eloping throat cancer include one or more of the following:
- Smoking and chewing tobacco
- Excessive alcohol use
- Poor dental hygiene
- A sexually transmitted disease known as the human papillomavirus
- A diet that lacks in fruits and vegetables
- Exposure to asbestos
Patients diagnosed with throat cancer will need to endure treatments that could result in learning how to swallow, eat solid foods, and talk all over again. Doctors, following treatment, will have patients seek help for the following:
- The care for a surgical opening in the throat if a tracheotomy was used
- Difficulty eating
- Difficulty swallowing
- Stiffness and pain in the neck
- Speech problems