Throat Cancer Symptoms
Throat cancer most often refers to the cancerous tumors that can develop in your throat, voice box, or tonsils. Your throat is a functional muscular tube that begins right behind your nose and ends in the back of your neck. Throat cancer symptoms most often begin in the flat cells that line the inside of your throat. About half of all throat cancer cases begin in the throat itself. The rest start in the voice box or cartilage of the windpipe.
Common throat cancer symptoms include:
- A persistent cough
- Changes in your voice such as hoarseness or not speaking clearly
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- A lump or sore that does not heal
- A sore throat
- Unexplained weight loss
- Trouble breathing
If you are experiencing any throat cancer or symptoms or notice any signs or symptoms that are persistent, you’ll want to make an appointment with your doctor. While most throat cancer symptoms are not specific to cancer, only your doctor can investigate the cause behind your symptoms and help to diagnose you properly.
What is Throat Cancer?
While throat cancer symptoms can be similar or almost identical to the symptoms that may accompany more common illnesses, throat cancer is not like other conditions in terms of cause or treatment.
All cancers are a class of diseases in which abnormal cells multiply and divide at an uncontrollable rate in the body. These abnormal cells will form malignant growths known as tumors. Throat cancer tends to refer to cancer that occurs in the voice box, vocal cords, tonsils, or oropharynx. Generally speaking, throat cancer is grouped into two distinct categories: pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer.
Pharyngeal cancer begins by forming in the pharynx of the throat. The pharynx is the hollow tube that runs behind your nose just to the top of your windpipe. Laryngeal cancer forms in the larynx of the body, which is also known as your voice box. Though throat cancer symptoms will be the same with both forms of cancer, treatment may vary.
Compared to other cancers, throat cancer is a relatively uncommon type of cancer. It is estimated that only 1.1 percent of adults will be diagnosed with one of the two categories of throat cancer in their lifetime.
Still, there are several distinct types of throat cancer, all of which involve the growth of abnormal cells. Identifying the type of cancer you have based on your throat cancer symptoms is key in developing a truly effective treatment plan.
The two types of throat cancer are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma- This type of cancer affects the flat cells that line the throat. It is by far the most common type of throat cancer diagnosed in the United States.
- Adenocarcinoma- This type of cancer will affect the glandular cells of the throat and is considered to be very rare.
Only your doctor can effectively determine what type of throat cancer you have and develop a treatment plan that best suits your specific symptoms. As is the case with any cancer, seeking treatment early on is the best way to shorten the length of the disease and cure your symptoms.
What causes Throat Cancer?
Like other types of cancer, throat cancer is occurs when the cells in the body develop a genetic mutation. In the case of throat cancer, cells in your throat will mutate. These mutations will cause cells to grow at an uncontrollable and rapid rate, allowing them to continue living long after healthy cells in the body would have died. These accumulating abnormal cells can form a tumor in the throat, resulting in throat cancer symptoms. It is not clear exactly what causes the specific mutation that results in throat cancer, though doctors have identified many risk factors that could impose harm.
Risk factors are either lifestyle or environmental choices that can lead to the development of certain cancers and diseases. While not everyone who partakes in these activities or suffers from these conditions will develop throat cancer symptoms, they can put you at an elevated risk later in life.
Identified risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing throat cancer include:
- Tobacco use, including smoking and using chewing tobacco.
- Excessive use of alcohol
- The sexually transmitted virus known as HPV
- A diet that is lacking in fruits and vegetables
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Unfortunately, there is no proven or sure fire way to prevent throat cancer from occurring in the body. Despite this, doctors have urged individuals to to reduce their risk of developing throat cancer symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle choices. Recommendations include:
- Stop smoking or refrain from smoking in the first place. If you are a smoker, you’ll need to quit. If you don’t’ smoke right now, don’t start. Thought stopping smoking can be very difficult, it is possible if you reach out for help or use stop-smoking aids such as the pill or the patch. Nicotine replacement products are a great way to cut back on urges and quit for good.
- Only drink alcohol in moderation. If you’re the type of person who enjoys drinking alcohol, make sure you’re doing so in moderation. Binge drinking isn’t going to do you any favors. The general rule of thumb for healthy adults is one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65. Two drinks a day are acceptable for men who are age 65 or younger.
- Eat a healthy and varied diet. Twinkie’s might be delicious, but they’re not going to do your body any favors. Instead of empty and fruitless calories, aim for a diet full of healthy fruits and vegetables. The vitamins present in fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of developing throat cancer and other types of cancerous diseases.
- Protect yourself from HPV. Strangely enough, many throat cancer cases are believed to be caused by the sexually transmitted diseases HPV. You can easily reduce your risk of contracting HPV by limiting your number of sexual partners, using a condom every time you have sex. You may also want to consider the HPV vaccine.
Reducing your risk of developing throat cancer means leading a healthy lifestyle and refraining from any activities that may pose a threat to your overall health. If you are experiencing any throat cancer symptoms, always air on the side of caution and consult a physician as soon as possible. Early intervention can make all the difference when it comes to cancer of the throat.