What Causes Tonsil Cancer
Men are diagnosed with tonsil cancer three to four times more often than women. People are generally diagnosed at age 50 or older, but it can develop at any age. The most significant risk factors for tonsil cancers are tobacco and alcohol use, including smokeless tobacco .Other potential causes include people with certain infections or decreased immunity, such as:
- Exposure to the human papilloma virus, especially strains 16 and 18.
- Organ transplant recipients
- People with human immunodeficiency virus disease
There are no accepted general risk factors or causes for lymphoma.
What Are Other Throat Cancer Types
- Hypopharyngeal cancer: This cancer affects the part of your throat thats just above your esophagus and windpipe.
- Nasopharyngeal cancer: This is a rare type of throat cancer. It affects the part of your throat thats just behind your nose.
- Supraglottic cancer: This cancer starts in the upper part of your larynx. It can affect your epiglottis, the cartilage that keeps food from going into your windpipe. About 35% of all laryngeal cancers start in your supraglottis.
- Glottic cancer:This is cancer in your vocal cords. Your vocal cords are in the middle part of your larynx. More than half of all laryngeal cancers start here.
- Subglottic cancer:This cancer starts below your vocal cords in the lower part of your voice box. About 5% of all laryngeal cancers start here.
Stage I Hypopharyngeal Cancers
Surgery includes removing all or part of the pharynx as well as lymph nodes on one or both sides of the neck . The larynx often needs to be removed as well. People who have a high chance of the cancer returning might then be treated with radiation or chemotherapy combined with radiation .
Some patients with small tumors may get radiation as their main treatment. The cancer is assessed again after the treatment is complete and if there’s any cancer left, surgery is done.
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What Cancer Affects Muscles
A sarcoma is a type of cancer that starts in tissues like bone or muscle. Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are the main types of sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. They can be found in any part of the body.
What Does Throat Cancer Look Like
Most people who are diagnosed with throat cancer wont see anything unusual if they look in the mirror, open their mouths and say, Ahhhh.
Thats because theres usually not much to see, says head and neck surgeon Miriam Lango, M.D. These tumors are often buried deep in the throat, or hidden under the surface of the tissue. Throat cancers are usually quite small, too, and they can be very difficult to see, even by trained experts. So, only about 20% to 30% of patients will notice something visible.
Symptoms of throat cancer
When a throat cancer is visible to the naked eye, here are some of the features it could have:
- Asymmetry: when one side looks odd or just noticeably different from the other
- Lesions: might appear as red or white patches
- Swelling: may or may not involve lesions
Throat cancers are usually found in the oropharynx, which includes the tonsils, the uvula , the soft palate, and the hind-most portion of the tongue, which is not visible without a scope. But they can also develop in the larynx and the nasopharynx .
Normally, it doesnt hurt, notes Lango. But its there for longer than it should be, its only on one side, and its too large to be a swollen lymph node.
Rarely, patients may report pain in the back of the throat or difficulty swallowing. But most have no symptoms at all, and are very surprised to hear that they have throat cancer.
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Prognosis Of Mouth And Throat Cancer
The survival rates for people with mouth and throat cancer vary, depending on
The original location of the tumor
Whether and how far it has spread
The cure rate for squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth is high if the entire cancer and the surrounding normal tissue are removed before the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. On average, more than 75% of people who have carcinoma of the tongue that has not spread to the lymph nodes survive at least 5 years after the diagnosis. About 75% of people who have carcinoma of the floor of the mouth that has not spread survive at least 5 years after the diagnosis. However, if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate decreases by about half. About 90% of people with carcinoma of the lower lip survive at least 5 years, and the carcinoma rarely spreads. Carcinoma of the upper lip tends to be more aggressive and spreads.
On average, 60% of people who have throat cancer survive at least 5 years after the diagnosis. Rates are more than 75% if the cause is human papillomavirus Human Papillomavirus Infection Human papillomavirus causes warts. Some types of HPV cause skin warts, and other types cause genital warts . Infection with some HPV… read more and less than 50% if the cause is something else.
have a better survival rate than people with a similar cancer caused by other factors.
Exams By A Specialist
If your doctor suspects a cancer of the larynx or hypopharynx, you will be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor, also called an otolaryngologist. This doctor will more completely examine your head and neck. This will include an inside look at the larynx and hypopharynx with an instrument, known as laryngoscopy, which can be done in 2 ways:
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How Is Oropharyngeal Cancer Diagnosed
First, your healthcare provider will take your medical history, ask about your smoking history , review current and past illnesses and medications and ask about your symptoms. Next, your provider will examine your mouth, throat and neck, using a mirror and lights and/or a fiberoptic scope to look for abnormal areas in your mouth and throat and will feel your neck for masses. If any abnormal tissue is found, a biopsy will be taken to check for cancer cells and the presence of HPV infection. Imaging tests of your throat area, such as a PET, CT scan or MRI, may be ordered. These tests provide greater detail of your throat and any masses found.
What Causes Laryngeal Cancer
It’s not clear exactly what causes laryngeal cancer, but your risk of getting the condition is increased by:
- smoking tobacco
- regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol
- having family members who have had laryngeal cancer
- having an unhealthy diet low in fruit and vegetables
- exposure to certain chemicals and substances, such as asbestos and coal dust
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What Is Transoral Robotic Surgery
Transoral robotic surgery is a minimally invasive treatment method to remove difficult-to-reach oropharyngeal cancers through your mouth. With robotic surgery, your surgeon operates while seated at a console unit, while you are on a nearby operating table. Your surgeon operates using hand and foot controls to position a 3D, high-definition camera and to precisely direct surgical instruments, which are attached to robotic arms. Robotic surgery avoids the larger neck incision and lower jaw splitting required with traditional surgery. Advantages of transoral robotic surgery include a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery, less damage to surrounding tissues and swallowing muscles, avoidance of a tracheostomy breathing tube and less long-term problems with speech and swallowing.
Side Effects Of Treatment
Radiation therapy to the mouth and throat causes many side effects including
Destruction of the salivary glands, which leaves the person’s mouth dry and can lead to cavities and other dental problems
Poor ability of the jawbones to heal from dental problems or injury
Skin changes, if radiation is done to the neck
Voice changes and trouble swallowing, if radiation is given to the throat or larynx
Because of these side effects, all pre-existing dental problems should be completely treated before radiation is given. Any teeth likely to become problematic are removed, and time is allowed for healing before radiation is given.
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Hpv And Oropharyngeal Cancer
Diagram of the oral cavity and oropharynx. The oral cavity includes the lips, the labial and buccal mucosa, the front two-thirds of the tongue, the retromolar pad, the floor of the mouth, the gingiva, and the hard palate. The oropharynx includes the palatine and lingual tonsils, the back one-third base of the tongue, the soft palate, and the posterior pharyngeal wall.
Human papillomavirus can cause serious health problems, including warts and cancer.
Physical Changes After Surgery
Depending on the type and extent of throat cancer, a person may need extensive surgery to the throat, tongue, jaw, and other structures. Reconstructive surgery can restore the appearance and function of these structures, but there is a risk of complications.
People who undergo surgery that changes the structure of the mouth and throat may need rehabilitation to help them speak and swallow. A cancer care team can include speech and occupational therapists who will work with a person to help improve or recover abilities that surgery might have affected.
Doctors will work with a person to determine the right surgical option and what to expect after surgery.
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Where Do These Numbers Come From
The American Cancer Society relies on information from the SEER* database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute , to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.
The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers using AJCC TNM stages for laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer. Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:
- Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the larynx or hypopharynx.
- Regional: The cancer has spread outside the larynx or hypopharynx to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the lungs.
What Puts You At Risk
You get throat cancer when some cells in your throat get a change in their genes. Doctors arenât sure what causes this change, but these things can make it more likely:
Using tobacco for a long time. Smoking it and chewing it are the biggest risk factors for all head and neck cancers, including throat cancer.
Drinking heavily and regularly. That means more than two drinks of alcohol a day if you’re a man or more than one a day if you’re a woman.
You drive up your risk even more if you drink and you smoke.
HPV. Human papillomavirus is linked to cancers in the back of the throat, including tongue and tonsil cancers.
You can help protect your kids from it in the future by having your children get the HPV vaccines. Kids should start the series of shots between 11 and 12 years old.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease . This chronic problem makes stomach acid flow up into your esophagus.
Other risk factors include:
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
Most types grow in the flat, thin cells that line the throat and voice box.
The two main types of throat cancer are:
- Pharyngeal cancer. Your throat is a tube that runs from your nose to your esophagus. Your esophagus carries food from the bottom of your throat to your stomach.
- Laryngeal cancer. Your voice box sits at the bottom of your throat and contains your vocal cords.
Doctors break these groups down even further, identifying them by where they are. Pharyngeal cancer may happen in your:
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There Is Hope Innovation And Support Available For Those With Pharyngeal Cancer Here At The U
Patient Care and TreatmentThe Head and Neck Oncology Program follows a team approach to care. Our patients with throat cancer have their situation discussed not only by our head and neck oncologists, but also by team surgeons and pathologists. By having everyone involved, a personalized treatment plan is developed. In most cases, this discussion happens the same day as the appointment.
Research and innovation: U-M researchers are at the forefront of understanding how HPV, or human papillomavirus, plays a role in the recent increase in head and neck cancers. We know patients with HPV-related tumors respond differently to treatment, and our clinical trials seek to understand how we can deliver the most effective treatments with the fewest side effects. In addition, we have a number of clinical trials open for eligible patients.
SupportUndergoing treatment for cancer — particularly head and neck cancer — is a difficult and sometimes painful process. To help, we’ve put together a page filled with Resources and Support for Patients. There are links to articles about treatment, survivor stories and information about support groups. Since our program is part of the U-M Rogel Cancer Center, our patients have access to a range of Patient Support Services. To fully understand what this means, please take time to visit the support services area of this website. We outline the services available to all of our patients at every point in their care.
Head And Neck Cancers
Cancers that start in the head and neck area are often grouped together under a general heading of head and neck cancer.
Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell cancers. Squamous cells are flat, skin like cells that cover the lining of the mouth, nose, larynx, thyroid, and throat.
This type of cancer can spread to lymph nodes in the neck.
Sometimes, the first sign of cancer that a person notices is a swollen lymph node in the neck.
Some of the most common head and neck cancers include:
- mouth and oropharynx
Cancer of the windpipe really comes under lung cancer.
The trachea branches into 2 smaller tubes called the main bronchi. It is more usual for lung cancer to start here, so it is sometimes called cancer of the bronchus or bronchial cancer.
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Is Throat Cancer Curable
Healthcare providers may be able to cure throat cancer that hasnt spread to nearby tissues or your lymph nodes. Cancer that hasnt spread is called localized cancer. Between 52% and 83% of people with all types of localized laryngeal cancer are alive five years after diagnosis. About 62% of people diagnosed with localized oropharyngeal cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.
Living With Throat Cancer
You may feel your cancer experience doesnt end on the last day of treatment. Take time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes and re-establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your doctor will continue to monitor your health and confirm the cancer hasnt come back.
If you have surgery to treat your throat cancer, you might have problems after surgery, such as:
- breathing difficulties, which might mean you need a breathing hole in your lower neck
- problems eating, which might mean you need a feeding tube inserted
- trouble swallowing
- scars and wounds that need time to heal
If you have more extensive surgery, you might have to adjust to greater changes. Talk to your doctor about what to expect or for referral to support services and resources.
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How Is Throat Cancer Diagnosed
Diagnosis of throat cancer typically begins with a physical exam conducted by your doctor to check for any signs of abnormality, such as a sore or lump in your mouth or swollen lymph nodes in your neck. Your doctor might also conduct an endoscopy, a procedure using a small camera and light. The endoscope is inserted through your nose and travels down the throat, allowing the doctor to take a closer look.
If an abnormality is spotted, your doctor will recommend a biopsy to confirm the presence of cancer. If throat cancer is diagnosed, you will likely need imaging tests to determine whether the throat cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
What Is Throat Cancer
In general, cancer occurs in the body at the cellular level, caused by a disruption in cellular activity when normal cell reproduce uncontrollably or dont die as they should. Throat cancer mostly originates in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that line the pharynx and larynx.
Throat cancer can affect either the pharynx or larynx and there are a variety of different types, based on where the cancer is found. Squamous cell cancer of the throat can spread to other areas of the body including the lungs, bone and liver.
The pharynx is a 5-inch hollow tube that starts behind your nose and mouth, and ends at the top of the trachea . Cancer in any part of the pharynx is known as pharyngeal cancer. There are three parts to the pharynx that can further classify the type of pharyngeal cancer a person has. Going from top to bottom, these are the nasopharynx , the oropharynx , and the hypopharynx .
The larynx contains your vocal cords, which are used to speak, and also helps to support the processes of breathing and swallowing. Cancer in any part of the larynx is known as laryngeal cancer. Like the pharynx, the larynx has three parts. From upper to lower, these are the supraglottis , glottis , and subglottis .
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