Throat cancer begins in the larynx (voice box), throat (pharynx), vocal cords, or tonsils. It can also indicate cancers that begin in the thyroid or oesophagus (food pipe). This cancer is mostly observed in the flat cells in the throat's inner lining.
Cancer is a group of diseases that involves the uncontrolled division of the body's cells resulting in the formation of a mass of cells called a tumour.
The throat is a muscular hollow tube that begins at the back of the nose and ends in the neck region. The throat is an important part of the body and helps in eating, speaking and breathing.
Types of throat cancer
As the name suggests, it starts in the nasopharynx. It is the part of the throat at the back of the nose. This cancer targets the tissues of the nasopharynx.
This cancer arises in the oropharynx. It is the part of the throat behind the mouth along with the tonsils. The majority of oropharyngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
Hypopharyngeal cancer (laryngopharyngeal cancer)
It is a rare type of throat cancer. It develops in the hypopharynx (laryngopharynx), the throat's lower region, and above the oesophagus and windpipe.
It is a cancer involving the larynx, which comprises the true vocal cords and anterior and posterior commissures.
It is a supraglottic malignancy (supraglottic cancer) and consists mainly of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). It develops in the upper part of the larynx and comprises cancer that affects the epiglottis.
It is a rare type of malignancy that develops in the lower portion of the larynx, below the vocal cords. This cancer is mostly squamous cell carcinoma and is common in males.
Throat cancer symptoms
Symptoms for throat cancers can include:
- Throat pain
- Coughing up blood
- Prolonged sore throat or cough
- Voice changes such as hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Discomfort sensation in the throat
- Lumps present in the neck or throat
- Unexplained weight loss
When to see a doctor?
Consult your primary care doctor if you notice any of the above signs and symptoms that are persistent. Usually, throat cancer symptoms don't indicate cancer. The doctor will likely recommend a few medical tests and if cancer is suspected, you will be referred to a specialist for further treatment.
Consult our oncologist , ENT specialist for more information and right treatment for throat cancer.
The causes of throat cancer include genetic mutations in the throat cells. These mutations may induce abnormal multiplication of cells and these unhealthy cells continue living even after healthy cells die. The cell division results in a mass of cells called a “tumour”.
- Using tobacco in any form, such as smoking and chewing tobacco
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Epstein-barr virus (EBV)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Family history
- Unhealthy diet
Diagnosis and treatment
Throat cancer can be diagnosed using the following tests or methods:
The doctor will inspect the patient's mouth, throat and neck for any unusual findings.
The doctor removes a small amount of abnormal tissue sample during the biopsy test, which is sent to a pathologist for microscopic examination.
Laryngoscopy is the visual physical examination of the vocal cords, larynx (voice box), and the surrounding structures of the throat.
An ultrasound test or USG scan uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the body's internal organs and help detect tumours or a lump.
A chest x-ray is done to examine a person’s general health or to inspect if cancer has metastasized to the lungs.
A CT (computerised tomography) scan may provide details about the tumour characteristics and help detect swollen lymph nodes containing cancer cells.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
A MRI scan provides an in depth view, and assists to find out if the cancer has metastasized to other body organs.
A PET scan is useful if thyroid cancer doesn't take up radioactive iodine, and the scan can find out whether the cancer has spread to other body parts.
Radiation therapy or radiotherapy
Radiotherapy can be recommended as a first-line treatment in early-stage cancers. This therapy is also used to treat recurrent throat cancer.
Based on the tumour size, surgery will be decided. Surgery to remove all or part of the voice box is known as a laryngectomy, and if only a part of the throat has to be removed, it is called pharyngectomy. Neck dissection surgery is done to excise malignant lymph nodes in head and neck.
Chemotherapy is a cancer drug used to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy, along with radiotherapy can treat throat cancers.
Targeted drug therapy
Targeted drug therapy is a cancer treatment used to cure laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers.
Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that stimulates a patient’s immune system to fight malignant cells. This therapy is primarily used to treat advanced throat cancer cases.
Supportive (palliative) care
Palliative care is medical care given to provide relief from pain and other side effects of a serious disease. Palliative care specialists are trained healthcare professionals who work with the patient and their families to provide additional support in combination with ongoing medical care.
Care at Medicover Hospitals
At Medicover Hospitals, we have the most trusted team of oncologists and ENT specialists who work together to provide personalised cancer treatment to the patients after evaluating the condition thoroughly. Our medical professionals adopt a comprehensive approach for treating throat cancer and its related complications with utmost care and precision. For throat cancer, we analyse the stage of the cancer and design a specific treatment pathway that is best suited as per the patient’s unique condition.