In addition to smoking and excessive drinking, asbestos exposure, poor dental hygiene and HPV (Human Papillomavirus) are some of the common causes of throat cancer in men and women. Also, men are more prone to suffer from throat cancer than women.
Every year more than 34,000 cases of throat cancer are registered in the United States alone. Unfortunately, in a majority of cases, the cancer is already in an advanced stage by the time it is diagnosed. While the early stages are treatable, prognosis is quite poor in the advanced stages. Throat cancer occurs when cells undergo harmful genetic mutations. These mutations cause an abnormal growth of cells which results in the death of healthy living cells, thus causing tumors. Any specific cause of this abnormal multiplication is still unknown, however, most doctors blame unhealthy lifestyle as potential causes that trigger throat cancer in the body.
Throat Cancer Prognosis - Stage 4
With a survival rate of almost 30%, stage 4 throat cancer is a matter of grave concern. At this stage, the cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes and other organs. Its further advancement can only be prevented by aggressive treatment which includes a combination of radiation and chemotherapy sessions with surgery. During surgery, doctors will remove the worst affected parts and try to retain the organ as much as they can. Parts that are removed are reconstructed artificially to ensure proper breathing and swallowing functions. The surgery may also cause complications such as difficulty in speaking or swallowing. Due to the nature of these complications, patients may need regular counseling with specialists for rehabilitation. Survival of the patient usually depends on his/her general health, the effect of the treatment and will-power.
This cancer is classified into four stages. As mentioned above, excessive smoking and drinking are the leading causes of throat cancer. In recent times, even HPV infections are considered to be a potential cause for the development of throat cancer.
The signs and symptoms will vary, depending on the stage of cancer. The most common signs are lumps in the neck, trouble in swallowing, sore throat, hoarseness, disfigurement of the neck or face, hardening of the skin, coughing up blood, and ear pain.
In staging, doctors usually detect the extent to which cancer has spread, so that an effective treatment can be determined. Staging also helps in determining the exact location of the cancer.
Stage 1 is considered as the initial stage. The cancer starts developing on the vocal cords and spreads towards the larynx or voice box. In the 1st stage, the cancer is small and measures about an inch. At this point, it hasn't spread towards the lymph nodes, so chances of survival are almost 70% to 80% if treatment is administered immediately.
Some medical experts consider this stage as initial but patients have to be a lot more cautious. In the second stage, the tumor has increased in size from 1 to 2 inches. Prognosis is not unfavorable, as the cancer is still at the pharynx and hasn't extended out to the lymph nodes. Chances of survival are almost 60% to 75%.
In Stage 3, the cancer has grown and begins to show its adverse effects. It starts spreading to the lymph nodes, and this stage is termed as an advanced stage of throat cancer. Chances of survival are almost 50% and the best treatment at this point is surgery, which is combined with supervised sessions of chemotherapy and radiation.
In Stage 4, the prognosis is poor, but in some cases, patients have responded positively towards the treatment and have shown improvement. In stage 4, the cancer has become large and has spread to the mouth and lips. Other than spreading towards lymph nodes, it also starts showing its effects on the victim's face. The prognosis of stage 4 cancer is not favorable because there is a high chance that the cancer may reappear, either on the throat or somewhere in the body. The biggest issue with throat cancer is its detection which usually occurs in advanced stages and this late detection also reduces the effects of the treatment.
As with any other form of cancer, detecting signs and symptoms at the earliest would perhaps be the best way to treat this condition. Treatment ensures the elimination of cancerous cells of the throat or to other body parts. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation sessions. Survival rate depends upon the victim's age, the stage of condition, oral health and the size of the tumor. In some instances, it also depends on how well the body responds to the treatment.