Throat Cancer Treatment

What is throat cancer?

man holding throat

Throat cancer is cancer of the vocal cords, voice box, or other parts of the throat, such as the oropharynx and tonsils.

What are the symptoms of throat cancer?

elderly man jogging in a garden

Common symptoms of throat cancer may include:

• Changes in your voice
• Bleeding in the mouth or through the nose
• Having a chronic cough
• Having difficulty swallowing, which is also called dysphagia
• Having a persistent sore throat
• Losing weight without trying
• Swelling of the jaw, throat, eyes or neck

Certain symptoms are characteristics of certain types of throat cancer. If you are experiencing changes in your voice, you are more likely to be suffering from laryngeal (voice box) cancer than cancer of the pharynx.

What are the causes of and risk factors for throat cancer?

There are a few lifestyle and genetic risk factors for throat cancer, including:

Not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Maintaining a diet low in these foods may increase your risk for developing throat cancer.

Smoking. Tobacco use (cigarettes, pipes, or cigars) can increase your likelihood for developing throat cancer.

Alcohol abuse. Excessive consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for developing throat cancer.

Human papillomavirus (HPV). Recent research has found associations between HPV infection and the rising rates of throat cancer.

Epstein-barr virus (EBV). Contracting EBV can increase the risk for throat cancer. EBV is a common virus that is transmitted through saliva.

Enquire with our Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) surgeons.

Did you know?

Chronic acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can increase the risk for throat cancer depending on the frequency and severity of the acid reflux. ¹

What are the possible complications of throat cancer?

Potential complications associated with throat cancer include stiffness and pain in the neck as well as trouble with eating, speaking, and swallowing. If you have to have surgery for your throat cancer you face an increased risk for bleeding and infection.

When should I see a specialist for throat cancer?

In the early stages, throat cancer can sometimes be difficult to detect. You should see an ENT specialist as soon as you develop any symptoms that could be indicative of throat cancer, which can include:

• Bleeding in the mouth or through the nose
• Changes in your voice
• Difficulty swallowing
• Having a chronic cough
• Having a persistent sore throat
• Swelling of the jaw, throat, eyes, or neck
• Unexplained weight loss

How should I prepare for my appointment?

The most important thing you should do to prepare for your appointment with your ENT specialist is to take note of all your symptoms and be prepared to talk about them. You should also take the time to learn all you can about the throat cancer diagnostic process.

Additionally, you should confide in a family member or trusted loved one about any fears you may have about your appointment. The possibility of a throat cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and talking through your feelings beforehand will help you pay better attention and focus at the appointment.

How do specialists diagnose throat cancer?

To diagnose throat cancer, your ENT specialist may recommend one of the following diagnostic methods:

Endoscopy. Your ENT specialist may use an endoscope, which is a special lighted scope, to take a closer look at your throat. There is a very small camera at the end of the scope that transmits images to a video screen so your specialist can check for abnormalities.

Laryngoscopy. Another type of scope, called the laryngoscope, allows your specialist to see inside your voice box. The scope has a magnifying lens to help examine the vocal cords.

Taking a biopsy. If either an endoscopy or laryngoscopy reveal any abnormalities, your ENT specialist can remove a tissue sample for further testing.

Imaging tests. X-rays, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans are all appropriate imaging tests for further determining the extent of the cancer.

What treatments are available for throat cancer?

There are a number of different treatment options available for throat cancer, and your ENT specialist will help you determine which is most appropriate for you depending on the stage of cancer. Treatments available for throat cancer include:

• Chemotherapy
• Radiation therapy
• Surgery to remove all or part of the throat, depending on the location of the cancer
• Targeted drug therapy

Request an appointment with an Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) surgeon today.

[1] Charles A. Riley, Eric L. Wu, Mei-Chin Hsieh, Michael J. Marino, Xiao-Cheng Wu, Edward D. McCoul. Association of Gastroesophageal Reflux With Malignancy of the Upper Aerodigestive Tract in Elderly Patients. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online December 21, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2017.2561