Throat cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in an abnormal way in the throat. The throat is the hollow tube that runs from behind the nose and mouth, down the neck, to the opening of the esophagus and windpipe. 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.
The cause of throat cancer is unknown.
These risk factors increase your chance of developing throat cancer. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
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:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. The doctor may feel for any lumps in the neck. You may be referred to an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in head and neck surgery
Once throat cancer is found, staging tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer.
This is surgery to remove the cancerous tumor and nearby tissue, and possibly nearby lymph nodes. In very rare cases, surgery to remove large tumors of the throat may also require removal of tissue for swallowing. As a result, food may enter the windpipe and reach the lungs, which might cause pneumonia. In cases when this is a risk, your surgeon may remove the larynx or voice box. Your surgeon will attach the windpipe to the skin through a hole in the neck, which is used for breathing.
This is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be: External radiation therapy-radiation directed at the tumor from a source outside the body Internal radiation therapy-radioactive materials placed into the throat in or near the cancer cells
This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms including pill, injection or through a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells.
Often times, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used together to kill cancer of the larynx and pharynx (throat). This combined approach may be better than surgery or radiation alone.
To reduce your chance of getting throat cancer, take the following steps
Learn more about the patient-centered, high-quality approach to cancer care provided to patients diagnosed and treated at Lahey Clinic's Sophia Gordon Cancer Center.