Throat cancer is also known as pharyngeal carcinoma in medical terminology and affects the pharynx. This is a malignant tumour, but in most cases it can be removed by surgery.
What is throat cancer?
Throat cancer refers to malignant tumors that can affect all parts of the human throat. If the cancer affects the upper area of the throat, i.e. the nasopharynx, this is also referred to as nasopharyngeal carcinoma. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Throat Cancer.
If the mouth is affected, it is called oropharyngeal carcinoma and cancer in the lower part of the throat is also called hypopharyngeal carcinoma.
The tumors all originate from the mucous membrane of the throat. Throat cancer is a rather rare form of cancer that usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 60. Men are affected more frequently than women.
The causes of throat cancer are still largely unexplored. However, it is assumed that excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption can promote throat cancer.
In addition, a poor diet can cause throat cancer, as can certain environmental factors. Experts also assume that the disease can also be hereditary. Certain viral infections are also known to trigger throat cancer.
First and foremost is the human papilloma virus, which is also responsible for the development of cervical cancer.
Patients who often suffer from diseases of the stomach and intestines such as heartburn are also more susceptible to throat cancer.
- lymph node swelling
- Sore throat
- shortness of breath
Diagnosis & History
Throat cancer progresses in many patients without clear symptoms. The lymph nodes in the neck may be swollen, but this usually does not cause pain. These swollen lymph nodes are usually the first sign of throat cancer, which most patients do not even notice.
If the throat cancer affects the nasal cavity, nasal breathing can be obstructed and nosebleeds are not uncommon in these patients. If the pharynx is affected, a sore throat can occur. If swallowing and breathing disorders occur, the cancer has usually already formed metastases and spread to neighboring organs.
Throat cancer is usually diagnosed with the help of endoscopy. During this examination, the doctor treating you takes tissue samples from the pharynx and examines them in the laboratory. Some of the tumors are already visible to the naked eye. In order to rule out metastases in the lungs, these are usually x-rayed.
The course of throat cancer can be associated with some complications. Swallowing and breathing problems are not uncommon. Of course, this leads to problems with food intake and sometimes severely restricts the patient’s quality of life. Regular follow-up checks are particularly important for patients who have successfully conquered throat cancer. This is the only way to quickly determine if the cancer reappears.
Difficulty breathing and swallowing problems can occur as serious complications of throat cancer. This results in problems with food intake and often leads to deficiency symptoms and dehydration. In the case of prolonged complaints, the quality of life is also significantly reduced. Middle ear infections, headaches and nosebleeds can also occur.
If these symptoms occur, the cancer has usually already formed metastases in neighboring organs. In the further course, there are usually further complications that require independent treatment. Chemotherapy is always a great burden for the body. Side effects such as nausea, hair loss, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and anemia typically occur.
Blood coagulation disorders and organ disorders can also occur. In general, there is an increased risk of infections and secondary diseases. The same applies to radiation therapy, which is also associated with a very low risk of further cancer. Bleeding, secondary bleeding, infections and injuries to nerve cords and important organs can occur during an operation. After the procedure, wound healing disorders and inflammation in the area of the procedure may occur. When scars form, it can cause permanent problems with chewing and swallowing.
When should you go to the doctor?
In case of a general malaise, a decrease in physical performance or internal weakness, a doctor is needed. If there is a gradual loss of well-being, weight loss or a feeling of illness over a longer period of time, a doctor should be consulted. Hoarseness, difficulty breathing, sore throat or lymphatic swelling are characteristic of throat cancer. If you experience these symptoms, you need to see a doctor.
Concerns include nosebleeds, swelling of the throat, discoloration of the skin in the throat, or loss of appetite. If there is apathy, an undersupply of the organism or changes in taste perception, a doctor should be consulted. Dehydration is a life-threatening condition. The affected person needs adequate medical care as soon as possible. In severe cases, an emergency service should be alerted.
Disturbances in the act of swallowing, a feeling of tightness in the throat or, in particular, vocalization should be clarified. In addition, special attention is required for complaints such as headaches, inflammatory diseases or a perception of pain in the area of the ears or throat. A doctor should be consulted to investigate the cause. If there are irregularities in a chewing movement, swelling in the area of the jaw or neck and abnormalities in the back teeth, the observations should also be discussed with a doctor.
Treatment & Therapy
Treatment for throat cancer usually depends on how far it has progressed. Basically, the primary goal will be to remove it as part of an operation. If this is not possible, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy can also be considered. Of course, the earlier treatment is started, the better the chances of recovery.
Especially in the case of throat cancer in the area of the larynx, treatment should primarily aim to maintain all important functions. Of course, this applies in particular to the preservation of the vote. Doctors now have a large number of surgical options available to preserve the larynx.
Since alcohol and cigarettes are known to be the main causes of throat cancer, you should try to limit the intake of both stimulants or, if possible, give them up entirely. On the other hand, you don’t have to do without coffee, because experts assume that regular coffee consumption can even reduce the risk of throat cancer. In general, it is important to eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables. Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract should be treated in good time, as they are also considered to be a trigger for throat cancer.
In the case of throat cancer, regular follow-up examinations are necessary after the treatments have been completed. For the patient, the first step is to clarify which doctor will be the contact person for the aftercare period. An aftercare plan is then planned and designed individually and is based on the extent of the disease.
The therapies are then complete and the patient is on the road to recovery. The investigations are initially carried out closely. If there are no problems and there are no signs of a relapse, the intervals can be gradually increased. Patients experiencing anxiety due to the disease and concerns about recurrence of throat cancer receive psychological follow-up care.
If necessary, it is also advisable to exchange ideas with other patients in a self-help group. At every follow-up examination, there is a detailed discussion between the patient and the doctor. It is therefore advisable for the patient to make notes in advance for the past period, which should be clarified in this conversation.
Then an examination of the mouth and throat was carried out. In particular, the mouth, throat, larynx, nose, paranasal sinuses, ears, throat and the skin in the head and neck area are examined. Blood is drawn regularly. In addition, if necessary, imaging procedures are carried out for diagnosis.
You can do that yourself
After the removal of a tumor in the throat (pharyngeal carcinoma), the affected patient may have to suffer from various limitations. He may not be able to chew, swallow, taste, or speak as usual. His appearance may also be affected.
This massive change in life can hardly be coped with alone, so accompanying psychotherapeutic treatment is advisable. Joining a self-help group can also help. In Germany, for example, there is a network for people who suffer from head, neck and mouth cancer (www.kopf-hals-mund-krebs.de), but the cancer information service also helps with addresses, information and links (www. krebsinformationsdienst.de). Most people who have developed throat cancer have previously smoked or drank heavily. These risk factors should be avoided now at the latest.
In order to be able to physically recover from cancer and its treatments, those affected should eat a healthy and varied diet with lots of fruit and vegetables. It is also advisable to drink plenty of two to three liters of liquid, preferably in the form of tea or water. However, coffee is also allowed, because the latest studies allow the conclusion that drinking coffee tends to reduce the risk of developing throat cancer. Good oral hygiene is now also important: the teeth and the spaces between the teeth should be cleaned thoroughly at least twice a day.