Is Throat Cancer Common
There are several types of throat cancer. The two most common throat cancer types are laryngeal cancer and oropharyngeal cancer. Laryngeal cancer affects your larynx . Oropharyngeal cancer affects the middle part of your throat. In 2022, about 54,000 people were expected to be diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer and about 12,000 people were expected to be diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. Here is more information about these two common throat cancer types:
- Laryngeal cancer: This is cancer in your voice box. This cancer affects more men than women. It typically affects people aged 55 and older. Laryngeal cancer can start in different parts of your larynx. Overall, between 46% and 72% of people diagnosed with some form of laryngeal cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.
- Oropharyngeal cancer: This cancer affects the part of your throat thats right behind your mouth. Twice as many men as women develop oropharyngeal cancer. It typically affects people aged 63 and older. About 50% of people diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.
What Are Cancers Of The Head And Neck
Cancers that are known collectively as head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces of the head and neck . These cancers are referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. Head and neck cancers can also begin in the salivary glands, sinuses, or muscles or nerves in the head and neck, but these types of cancer are much less common than squamous cell carcinomas .
Cancers of the head and neck can form in the:
Oral cavity: Includes the lips, the front two-thirds of the tongue, the gums, the lining inside the cheeks and lips, the floor of the mouth under the tongue, the hard palate , and the small area of the gum behind the wisdom teeth.
Voice box : The voice box is a short passageway formed by cartilage just below the pharynx in the neck. The voice box contains the vocal cords. It also has a small piece of tissue, called the epiglottis, which moves to cover the voice box to prevent food from entering the air passages.
Paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity: The paranasal sinuses are small hollow spaces in the bones of the head surrounding the nose. The nasal cavity is the hollow space inside the nose.
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.
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Who Should Have A Throat Cancer Screening
Actually, according to the American Cancer Society, there are no simple screening tests for these cancers because they are hard to diagnose without complex procedures. For that reason, unless you are showing symptoms of the disease, routine throat cancer screening is not recommended.
If we believe you need a throat cancer screening, we will use a special, thin, lighted endoscope with a tiny camera to examine the area. Your vocal cords may also be examined in a similar matter in a procedure called a laryngoscopy.
If there are suspicious areas such as a neck mass, we may remove a part of them for testing.
Why Is Yale Cancer Center Unique In Its Care Of Head And Neck Cancers
Yale Cancer Center uses advanced technologies in the management of throat cancers, including robotic surgery and targeted therapies. We work in multidisciplinary teams, including surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, speech and swallow therapists, oncology navigators, physical therapists and integrative medicine professionals, to ensure that you have all the information, expertise and support you need, every step of the way, says Dr. Osborn.
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Palliative Care For Throat Cancer
You may hear your doctor call your treatment ‘palliative care‘. This treatment is not just for people nearing the end of their lives and is designed to manage symptoms rather than cure. The goal is to improve your quality of life and that of your family, friends and carers.
You can receive palliative care at the same time as cancer treatment. The Cancer Council booklet Living with advanced cancer may be helpful to read.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
There are a number of symptoms that should prompt you to see your healthcare provider. It’s important to note that, especially with women, the symptoms of lung cancer can be vague and mild, and may not make you think of your lungs as the problem. Reasons to see your healthcare provider include:
- Fatigue that doesn’t improve with adequate rest
- Shortness of breath, even if you think it may just be due to inactivity
- Coughing up any blood
- A cough that’s not going away
- More respiratory infections than usual for you or more than one episode of pneumonia
Perhaps the most important “symptom” is your gut feeling. If something seems abnormal to you, talk to your healthcare provider, even if you think there is a logical explanation or if it is only a “nuisance” symptom.
Reasons to call 911 or seek immediate care include:
- Coughing up more than 1 teaspoon of blood
- Shortness of breath that is sudden in onset or worsening
- Fainting or light-headedness
- Severe chest pain
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How Throat Cancer Affect Daily Life
Lacy tells us, “The chemo damaged my hearing, I wear hearing aids, food today I eat what I want except apples still taste bad. The radiation damaged my saliva glands so I drink water all day.”
Dr. Stoll explains, “Throat cancer can affect one’s life in several ways. A lump or mass felt in the throat can definitely be very uncomfortable and cause a lot of pain. Throat cancer can cause swallowing issues and therefore an individual with throat cancer may not want to eat or drink. This can lead to severe malnutrition and weight loss. Throat cancer, believe it or not, may also make it more difficult to hear and speak. In summary, throat cancer can be quite debilitating and can really cause many issues during one’s daily life.”
Dr. Kerner tells us, “Throat cancer after being treated has a profound effect on speech and swallowing. If after treatment with radiation and sometimes chemotherapy, there can be persistent swelling that can put the patient at risk for airway obstruction, thus necessitating the placement of a tracheostomy and sometimes a feeding tube directly into the stomach.”
Throat Cancer Proton Therapy
Proton therapy delivers high radiation doses directly to the tumor site, with limited, if any, damage to nearby healthy tissue. This pencil-beam technology pioneered by the cancer experts at MD Andersons Proton Therapy Center and available at only a few other centers worldwide is an important tool for fighting certain head and neck cancers. For some patients, this therapy results in better cancer control with fewer side effects.
The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson offers the most advanced form of radiation treatment available in the Southwest. This means that this cutting-edge therapy is backed by all the expertise and compassionate care for which MD Anderson is known.
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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.
Stages Of Throat Cancer
Each type of this cancer has its own rules for staging, which describes how severe the disease is.
But generally, stages I and II are smaller cancers and remain in one area of the organ.
Stage III diseases may have gone to lymph nodes or other parts of the throat.
And stage IV cancers may have spread to lymph nodes and different parts of the head, neck, or chest. The most serious stage IV cancers have traveled to distant parts of the body like the lungs or liver.
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What Is Laryngeal Cancer
Laryngeal cancer includes cancerous cells found in any part of the larynx, which consists of the glottis, the supraglottis, and the subglottis.
The larynx, often referred to as the voice box, is a two-inch long tube-shaped organ located in the neck at the top of the trachea . The cartilage in front of the larynx is sometimes called the Adam’s apple.
The vocal cords are two bands of muscle that form a V shape inside the larynx.
The area of the larynx where the vocal cords are located is called the glottis. The area above the cords is called the supraglottis, and the area below the cords is called the subglottis. The epiglottis is a flap at the top of the trachea that closes over the larynx to protect it from food that is swallowed into the esophagus.
Breath enters the body through the nose or mouth, and then travels through the larynx, trachea, and into the lungs. It exits along the same path. Normally, no sound is made by the vocal cords during breathing or exhaling.
When a person talks, the vocal cords tighten, move closer together, and air from the lungs is forced between them. This makes them vibrate and produces sound.
Approximately 12,300 people are expected to be diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in the U.S. in 2013. About 3,600 deaths are expected to occur in 2013, reports the American Cancer Society.
Signs You May Have Throat Cancer Like Val Kilmer Including Voice Changes
Val Kilmer has starred in some of Hollywood’s most memorable films like Top Gun, Heat, Tombstone, Batman Forever and Willow, which he was set to reprise his role in the Disney+ reboot series, but was forced to pull out at the last minute due to health issues. “We really wanted Val to come be in the show,” showrunner Jonathan Kasdan tells Entertainment Weekly. “And Val really wanted to come out and be in the show. I remember going to see Val right after this thing started to get some momentum, and I said, ‘Listen, we’re doing this. And the whole world wants Madmartigan back.’ And he was like, ‘Not as much as I do.’
In 2015, the actor was diagnosed with throat cancer and has been battling the disease for years, leaving fans wondering if he’d ever come back to the big screen. Although he vanished from acting for years, the 62-year-old made a triumphant return. Kilmer reclaimed his iconic role as Iceman in this summer’s blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, however in a very limited appearance. After rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, the star needed a tracheostomy tube and feeding tube, which left him unable to speak as he once had. “Now that it’s more difficult to speak, I want to tell my story more than ever,” Kilmer said in his 2020 documentary, Vala film that highlights his career and life.
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When Throat Cancer Cant Be Cured
If your throat cancer has spread to other parts of the body and it is not possible to cure it by surgery, your doctor may still recommend treatment.
Treatment for control of cancer may include:
Treatment may help to relieve symptoms might make you feel better and may allow you to live longer.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Developing Head And Neck Cancers
People who are at risk of head and neck cancersparticularly those who use tobaccoshould talk with their doctor about ways to stop using tobacco to reduce their risk.
Avoiding oral HPV infection can reduce the risk of HPV-associated head and neck cancers. In June 2020, the Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval of the HPV vaccine Gardasil 9 for the prevention of oropharyngeal and other head and neck cancers caused by HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 in persons aged 9 through 45 years. More information about these vaccines is available in the Human Papillomavirus Vaccines fact sheet.
Although there is no standard or routine screening test for head and neck cancers, dentists may check the oral cavity for signs of cancer during a routine checkup.
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Tobacco Alcohol And Throat Cancer Risk
Smoking and drinking alcohol are major risk factors for throat cancer. Using tobacco , exposes your mouth to cancer-causing substances .
If you smoke and drink, your risk of developing throat cancer is significantly higher.
Alcohol may enable other carcinogens, , to enter and damage cells.
While smoking and drinking are major risk factors for throat cancer, younger people who are non-smokers and non-drinkers are increasingly being diagnosed with this type of cancer.
What Causes Cancers Of The Head And Neck
Alcohol and tobacco use are the two most important risk factors for head and neck cancers, especially cancers of the oral cavity, hypopharynx, and voice box . People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk of developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone . Most head and neck squamous cell carcinomas of the mouth and voice box are caused by tobacco and alcohol use .
Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus , especially HPV type 16, is a risk factor for oropharyngeal cancers that involve the tonsils or the base of the tongue . In the United States, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers caused by HPV infection is increasing, while the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers related to other causes is falling . About three-quarters of all oropharyngeal cancers are caused by chronic HPV infection . Although HPV can be detected in other head and neck cancers, it appears to be the cause of cancer formation only in the oropharynx. The reasons for this are poorly understood.
Other known risk factors for specific cancers of the head and neck include the following:
Paan . The use of paan in the mouth, a common custom in Southeast Asia, is strongly associated with an increased risk of mouth cancers .
Radiation exposure. Radiation to the head and neck, for noncancerous conditions or cancer, is a risk factor for cancer of the salivary glands .
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Our Throat Cancer Clinical Trials
Because of its status as one of the worlds premier cancer centers, MD Anderson develops and participates in clinical trials of new therapies for throat cancer. Sometimes they are your best option for treatment. Other times, they help researchers learn how to treat cancer and improve the future of cancer treatment. Learn more about clinical trials.
Learn more about throat cancer:
What Are The Risk Factors For Throat Cancer
While smoking may be the most obvious risk factor, there are others that should be considered. These include:
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
- Being exposed to HPV
Remember that vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking. E-cigarettes have substances like nicotine and diacetyl, which are linked to lung disease. Ideally, you should avoid both electronic and tobacco cigarettes.
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Throat Cancer Radiation Therapy
New radiation therapy techniques, such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy and proton therapy, and remarkable skill allow MD Anderson doctors to target throat cancer tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
Radiation treatments include:
- Brachytherapy: Tiny radioactive seeds are placed in the body close to the tumor
- 3D-conformal radiation therapy: Multiple radiation beams are given in the exact shape of the tumor
- Intensity-modulated radiotherapy : Treatment is tailored to the specific shape of the tumor
Treatment For Throat Cancer
Treatment depends on the size, type and location of the cancer and whether it has spread. It can include:
- Surgery the tumour is surgically removed. This may require the partial or total removal of the thyroid, tissue or muscle, or the entire larynx or tongue , depending on the location and size of the tumour. Nearby lymph glands may also need to be removed if the cancer has spread.
- Radiation therapy small, precise doses of radiation target and destroy cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy the use of cancer-killing drugs, often in combination with radiotherapy. Chemotherapy can be helpful in controlling cancers that have spread because the whole body is treated.
- Multi-modal treatments surgery on larger tumours may be followed with radiation therapy. Chemo-radiotherapy may also be used.
- Long term monitoring this may include regular examinations and x-rays to make sure the cancer hasnt come back.
- Ongoing care this may include speech therapy,dietary advice, regular medical follow-up and counselling.
All treatments have side effects. These will vary depending on the type of treatment you are having. Many side effects are temporary, but some may be permanent. Your doctor will explain all the possible side effects before your treatment begins.
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