Cancer of larynx. Cancer can develop anywhere in throat. Most cases of throat cancer arise from glottis. The lining of larynx is lined with cells called squamous cells. Almost all throat cancers arise from these cells. These cancers are called squamous cell carcinomas.
If throat cancer spreads (metastasizes), cancer usually spreads to lymph nodes near neck. Cancer cells can also spread to back of tongue, other parts of throat and neck, lungs, and other parts of body. When this happens, new tumor has same abnormal cells as original tumor in throat. For example, if throat cancer spreads to lungs, cancer cells in lungs are actually throat cancer cells. This disease is called metastasis to larynx, not lung cancer. It was considered throat cancer, not lung cancer. Doctors sometimes refer to this new tumor as a "distant" disease.
Throat Cancer Risk Factors
People with certain risk factors are more likely to develop throat cancer. A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing a disease.
The study identified following risk factors:
Age. Throat cancer is most common in people over age of 55.
Gender. Men are four times more likely than women to get throat cancer.
Ethnicity. African Americans are more likely than whites to be diagnosed with throat cancer.
Smoking. Smokers are more likely to develop throat cancer than non-smokers. The risk is even higher for heavy alcohol smokers. People who quit smoking can significantly reduce their risk of developing throat cancer, as well as cancers of lungs, mouth, pancreas, bladder, and esophagus. At same time, smoking cessation reduces likelihood of recurrence of head and neck cancer in patients with laryngeal cancer. (Cancer of larynx is part of a group of cancers known as head and neck cancer.)
Alcohol. People who drink alcohol are more likely to develop throat cancer than teetotalers. The risk increases with amount of alcohol consumed. The risk also increases if a person drinks alcohol and smokes.
Personal history of head and neck cancer. Almost one in four people with head and neck cancer develops a second primary head and neck cancer.
Profession. Workers exposed to sulfuric acid or nickel fumes have an increased risk of developing throat cancer. At same time, use of asbestos can also increase risk of this disease. Workers working with asbestos must comply with work and safety regulations to avoid inhaling asbestos fibers.
Other studies show that certain viruses or a diet low in vitamin A may increase chance of developing throat cancer. Another risk factor is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backs up into esophagus.
However, most people with these risk factors do not develop throat cancer.
Symptoms and signs
The symptoms of throat cancer largely depend on size of tumor and its location in larynx. Symptoms may include:
Harshness or other changes in voice.
Swelling on neck
Sore throat, sore throat
Cough that won't go away
These symptoms may be caused by cancer or other less serious problems. Only a doctor can be sure.
Throat Cancer Diagnosis
If you have symptoms of throat cancer, your doctor may do some or all of tests:
Physical examination. The doctor feels your neck to check your thyroid, larynx, and lymph nodes for any unusual lumps or swelling. To examine your throat, doctor may press your tongue to ground. Indirect laryngoscope.
Direct laryngoscopy. The doctor inserts a thin, bright tube called a laryngoscope through nose or mouth. While tube is in your throat, doctor can examine areas that cannot be seen in a mirror. Local anesthesia can reduce discomfort and prevent stuttering. You can also take a mild sedative to help you relax. Sometimes doctors put people to sleep with general anesthesia. This test can be done in a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital.
CT. An x-ray machine connected to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of neck area. You can inject a special dye so that your throat is clearly visible in picture. On a CT scan, your doctor may see a lump in your throat or elsewhere in your neck.
Biopsy. If examination reveals abnormal areas, doctor may take a small tissue sample. Removing tissue to look for cancer cells is called a biopsy. For biopsy, you are given local or general anesthesia, and doctor uses a laryngoscope to take a tissue sample. The pathologist then examines tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. A biopsy is only way to determine if a tumor is cancerous.
throat cancer stage
Laryngeal cancer staging system
In order to plan best treatment, your doctor needs to know stage or extent of your disease. Staging is a careful attempt to find out if cancer has spread, and if so, to what part of body. Doctors may use x-rays, CT scans, or magnetic resonance imaging to see if cancer has spread to lymph nodes, other parts of neck, or to distant locations.
Throat Cancer Treatment
Patients with throat cancer often want to take an active part in medical decision-making. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist who treats throat cancer, such as a surgeon, an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor), a radiation oncologist, or an oncologist. Early stages of disease can be treated with surgery and radiation therapy. Advanced stages usually require chemotherapy.