Throat Cancer

Throat cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in an abnormal way in the throat. Cancer occurs when cells in the body—in this case throat cells—divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor usually does not invade or spread.

  • Causes

    The cause of throat cancer is not known.

  • Definition

    Throat cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in an abnormal way in the throat.

    Cancer occurs when cells in the body—in this case throat cells—divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to
    malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. A
    benign tumor
    usually does not invade or spread.

    Throat Cancer
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may feel for any lumps in your neck. You may be referred to an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in head and neck surgery.

    Your bodily fluids and tissue may be tested. This can be done with:

    • Fine needle aspiration

    • Incisional
      biopsy

    Your internal structures may need to be viewed and examined. This can be done with:

    • Laryngoscopy
    • Panendoscopy
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan

  • Prevention

    To reduce your chance of getting throat cancer, take the following steps:


    • Don't smoke or use tobacco products. If you do smoke or use tobacco products,
      get help to quit
      .
    • Drink alcohol only in moderation. Moderate alcohol intake is two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

    • Eat a healthful diet, one that is
      low in saturated fat
      and rich in
      whole grains
      ,
      fruits, and vegetables.
    • See your doctor and dentist regularly for check-ups and cancer screening.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that can increase your chance of developing throat cancer include:

    • Age: 40 or older
    • Sex: male
    • Smoking or use of any tobacco products
    • Excessive alcohol consumption
    • Family history
    • Vitamin A deficiency
    • Diet low in fruits and vegetables
    • Suppressed immune system

    • Infections caused by certain viruses such as:

      • Epstein-Barr virus
      • Human papillomavirus
    • Radiation
      exposure
    • Excess consumption of cured meats or fish
    • Marijuana use

    • Exposure to certain materials such as in:

      • Nickel refining
      • Woodworking
      • Working with textile fibers

  • Symptoms

    If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to throat cancer. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

    • Sore throat
    • Feeling that something is caught in the throat
    • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
    • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
    • Voice changes or hoarseness
    • Change in voice quality
    • Pain in the head, throat, or neck
    • Lump in the neck
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Coughing blood

  • Treatment

    When throat cancer is found, staging tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer.