Throat is the muscular tube that begins from the base of the tongue, and runs down the neck. Statistics inform us that the estimated number of new cases of throat cancer (which involve cancer of any part of the throat) in the U.S. in 2010 are 12,720 (laryngeal); 12,660 (pharyngeal). The estimated deaths from this cancer in 2010 are 3,600 (laryngeal); 2,410 (pharyngeal). Creating awareness about the causes and symptoms of the cancer may help detect the cancer at earlier stages, and may help improve the survival rate.
- Excessive smoking
- Chewing tobacco
- Alcohol abuse
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Excessive enlargement of the thyroid gland or goiter
- Exposure to harmful radiation
- Nutritional deficiency
- Genetic predisposition
- Chronic sore throat that does not go away easily
- Persistent cough
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- A lump or sore that does not heal
- A change in the voice, such as a new hoarseness in the voice
- Undesired weight loss
- Ear pain
- Breathing difficulty
- Bleeding from the throat, or blood-tinged sputum
Stage 1 is the initial stage of the cancer. During this stage, the tumor is less than one inch in size, and is confined to its original location in the throat. It is difficult to detect cancer at this stage as it hardly exhibits any symptoms. Many times the early symptoms are neglected or misinterpreted. A tumor of about two inches in size indicates second stage, while a tumor bigger than 2 inches and infested lymph nodes indicate the third stage. The lymph nodes are usually smaller than 3 centimeters during the third stage, but during the fourth stage, they become larger, usually larger than six centimeters. At this stage, the cancer spreads into nearby tissues (around the lips and mouth).
Prognosis for metastasized throat cancer (distant organs of the body are invaded) is not as favorable as prognosis for stage one. During the fourth stage, the cancer attacks the nearby tissues and organs, and so is difficult to remove. Neck dissection surgery can be an option. It helps remove the cancerous cells that have spread beyond the primary site. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy help kill the remaining cancer cells. Unfortunately, 70% of total throat cancer patients have stage 4 cancer at the time of diagnosis. Removal of the pharynx or the larynx, or both, is the only option left for these patients. After such surgeries, patients need extensive rehabilitation as they need to learn new breathing techniques and new ways of speaking. They need to know how to use their vocal cords properly. Patients may also need voice aids or surgical restructuring for speaking. Surgery may involve creating a new tract for food.
The survival rate depends on the stage of the disease, age, general health of the patient, availability of advanced techniques and medicines, will power and determination of the patient, etc.
- The survival rate for carcinoma in situ (very early stage) is nearly 98%.
- The five year survival rate for stage 1 is 90% which means about 90% of patients diagnosed with stage 1 cancer of the throat will survive for five years or more.
- The survival rate for stage 2 is 75%, and for stage 3, it is about 60%.
- Stage 4 throat cancer survival rate is the minimum one, that is only 30%. This means only 30% of people with the cancer at stage 4 will survive for 5 years.
Remember, statistical figures should be considered as guidelines only. These figures should not be used to predict the life expectancy of a patient.
Aging increases the risk of having throat cancer. Studies show that it is more common in males than in females. People between ages 55 to 65 years are more likely to develop it. Since metastasized cancer is difficult to treat, detection of the cancer at an early stage plays an important role in complete recovery from it. Early detection helps increase the life expectancy of the patient significantly. So, if one notices any of the symptoms, mentioned above, he / she should immediately consult a physician.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.