Throat cancer, also known as pharyngeal cancer, refers to the development of malignant cells in the throat area. It’s important to note that there are different types of throat cancer, each with distinct causes. The main causes of throat cancer can be broadly attributed to lifestyle factors, certain infections, and genetic predisposition.
Read this post to learn more about throat cancer symptoms, their causes, and how to treat them.
What Are The Main Causes Of Throat Cancer?
The primary causes of throat cancer symptoms are:
Tobacco use, especially smoking cigarettes, is one of the leading risk factors causing throat cancer symptoms. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the cells lining the throat and increase the likelihood of cancerous growth.
This is also the number one cause of lung cancer as well. Plus, it’s possible to develop throat cancer from vaping symptoms as well, so that’s not safe either!
2. Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption can irritate the throat lining, making it more susceptible to cancerous changes. Combining tobacco and alcohol use significantly increases the risk. This also causes other common types of cancer like bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and even
3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection
Certain strains of HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, are strongly linked to the development of throat cancer, particularly in the oropharynx (back of the throat). HPV throat cancer symptoms are more common in younger individuals and tend to have a better prognosis compared to non-HPV-associated cancers.
4. Dietary Factors
A diet low in fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, can increase the risk of throat cancer. These nutrients help protect cells from damage and support a healthy immune system.
5. Environmental Exposures
Exposure to certain environmental pollutants and chemicals, such as asbestos and certain industrial substances, can raise the risk of throat cancer. Prolonged and significant exposure to these substances increases the likelihood of cancer development.
6. Genetic Predisposition
Family history and genetic factors can influence an individual’s susceptibility to various types of cancer, including throat cancer. While these factors may contribute, they are less commonly the primary cause.
7. Age and Gender
The risk of throat cancer increases with age, particularly after the age of 50. Men are generally more susceptible to throat cancer than women.
8. Poor Oral Hygiene
Chronic irritation and inflammation in the mouth and throat, often due to poor oral hygiene, can increase the risk of developing throat cancer symptoms in men. Poor oral hygiene can cause cobblestone throat.
9. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Chronic acid reflux throat cancer symptoms, a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, can cause inflammation and irritation in the throat. Over time, this irritation may contribute to the development of cancerous cells. This can lead to pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer.
What Are The Most Recognized Throat Cancer Symptoms?
Throat cancer symptoms can vary depending on the location of the cancer within the throat. These symptoms can be subtle at first but tend to become more noticeable as the cancer progresses. It’s important to pay attention to any persistent or unusual symptoms and seek medical attention if they persist.
Here are the most recognized throat cancer symptoms, explained in detail:
1. Persistent Hoarseness Or Voice Changes
Hoarseness that lasts for more than a few weeks can be one of the first symptoms of throat cancer. It occurs due to the cancer affecting the vocal cords or surrounding tissues.
2. Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)
Experiencing throat cancer symptoms can make it challenging and painful to swallow, especially solid foods. This symptom is more common when the cancer affects the esophagus or upper part of the throat.
3. Persistent Sore Throat or Pain
Unexplained pain or discomfort in the throat that persists for an extended period despite treatment should be investigated. This pain can be mild initially but may become more severe as the cancer grows.
4. Lump Or Mass in the Neck
A noticeable lump or swelling in the neck could indicate that the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Lymph nodes may become enlarged and palpable as the body’s immune system responds to the presence of lymphoma cells.
5. Unexplained Weight Loss
Significant and unintended weight loss without a change in diet or physical activity can be indicative of an underlying health issue, including cancer.
6. Persistent Cough Or Coughing Blood
A persistent cough, especially one that produces blood, mucus, or a change in the quality of phlegm, should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
7. Ear Pain Or Earache
Throat cancer that affects the surrounding tissues can lead to referred pain in the ears. Ear pain, especially if it occurs on only one side, should be investigated.
8. Breathing Difficulties
Larger throat cancers can block or narrow the airway, leading to breathing difficulties, noisy breathing, or even stridor (high-pitched sound during breathing).
9. Changes In Speech
Throat cancer symptoms can affect speech patterns, causing slurred speech or changes in the way words are pronounced.
10. Numbness Or Weakness In The Face
If the cancer affects certain nerves, it can lead to throat cancer symptoms like numbness, weakness, or difficulty moving the muscles of the face.
11. Frequent Throat Infections
While less common, persistent or recurrent throat infections, particularly in non-smokers, could be a sign of underlying throat cancer.
What Throat Cancer Treatment Procedures Are There?
Throat cancer treatment procedures vary based on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences. Treatment often involves a combination of approaches to target the cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissues.
Here’s a detailed explanation of the main treatment procedures for throat cancer symptoms:
1. Tumor Removal By Surgery
Surgical procedures involve removing the tumor and, if necessary, surrounding tissues or lymph nodes. This can be done using various techniques, such as laser surgery, transoral robotic surgery (TORS), or traditional open surgery. The goal is to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible while preserving normal function.
2. External Beam Radiation Therapy
This procedure involves directing high-energy beams (X-rays or protons) at the tumor from outside the body. It damages the DNA of cancer cells, inhibiting their growth and causing them to die. Radiation therapy can be used as the primary treatment or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy.
3. Systemic Chemotherapy
Drugs are administered orally or intravenously to target cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments. It’s particularly useful when the throat cancer symptoms has spread to other parts of the body.
4. Targeted Therapy Involving Monoclonal Antibodies
These drugs target specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells to inhibit their growth and spread. Targeted therapy is often used in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
5. Immunotherapy Involving Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
These drugs help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells that exhibit throat cancer symptoms. They can be effective in certain cases of advanced throat cancer.
Radioactive sources are placed directly into or near the tumor site. This delivers a high dose of radiation to the cancer while sparing nearby healthy tissues.
7. Combination Therapy
Many cases of throat cancer require a combination of treatments. For example, chemoradiation involves simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This approach can be more effective in shrinking tumors and improving outcomes.
8. Reconstructive Surgery
After tumor removal, reconstructive surgery might be necessary to restore function and appearance. This could involve techniques such as skin grafts or tissue flaps.
9. Palliative Care
In cases where a cure is not possible, palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms, improving quality of life, and providing emotional support.
The choice of treatment for throat cancer symptoms depends on factors such as the cancer’s stage, location, size, and the patient’s overall health. Treatment plans are often developed collaboratively by a multidisciplinary team of oncologists, surgeons, radiation therapists, and other healthcare professionals.
The goal is to create a personalized treatment approach that maximizes the chances of success while minimizing side effects. It’s important for patients to have open discussions with their healthcare team about the potential benefits, risks, and expected outcomes of each treatment option.