The throat is a muscular tube that begins just behind the nose and runs down to the neck. When there is growth of malignant tumor in any part of this tube, it is referred to as throat cancer. It mainly affects the food pipe or esophagus, voice box or larynx, or the cells lining the throat, thyroid glands, etc. The chances of getting throat cancer have been found to be more in men than in women. Usually, those people who are above the age of 50 are at a greater risk of getting throat cancer.
Throat cancer is caused mainly because of genetic mutation of the squamous cells of the throat which results in their uncontrollable growth and formation of tumor. The exact cause behind such kind of abnormal growth of the cells in the throat has not yet been ascertained. However, various research studies have come up with a number of possible causes of throat cancer. They are as follows:
Use of Tobacco
Tobacco used in any form, be it smoking or chewing, is one of the biggest cause of throat cancer. Smoking is so hazardous that even passive smokers may get throat cancer.
Drinking of Alcohol
Those who are into excessive drinking of alcohol are at an increased risk of throat cancer. When smokers drink heavily, then the risk is even higher.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
This virus causes genital warts and is sexually transmitted from one person to another. It tends to settle in the larynx and promotes growth of cancerous cells and may lead to throat cancer in future.
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
In this disease, the stomach acid back flows into the esophagus and causes severe damage to the lining of the esophagus. When the condition is left untreated for a long time then it can badly affect the larynx and esophagus and result in cancer.
Exposure to Chemicals
There are many harmful chemicals which can increase the possibility of throat cancer. Asbestos is one such chemical and is used on a large scale in various manufacturing industries. As a result, people working in those industries are likely to get throat cancer.
Excessive enlargement of the thyroid gland or goiter, lack of dental hygiene, exposure to harmful radiation, nutritional deficiency, genetic predisposition are the other possible throat cancer causes.
The signs and symptoms that help us to detect throat cancer are as follows:
- Presence of a lump inside the throat which often gives the patients a feeling that some foreign substance is stuck into it.
- Pain in the throat which can vary from mild to severe in intensity. Sometimes, the pain may get extended up to the ears.
- Soreness in throat
- Due to the pain and soreness, one may find it difficult to swallow.
- With the growth in the size of the tumor, voice change takes place like hoarseness or huskiness
- Persistent coughing
- Blood spots can be found in the coughed up phlegm
- Difficulty in breathing
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Weight loss
There are several factors that are taken into account before starting the treatment for throat cancer. Like, size and location of the tumor, the part affected by it, etc. All these aspects are detected by several types of laboratory tests like x-ray, biopsy, CT scan, MRI scan and so on. Surgical removal of the malignant tumor is one of the methods of its treatment.
In those cases where cancer has caused severe damage to any of the structures inside the throat like thyroid gland or larynx then partial or complete removal becomes essential. Radiation therapy is another form of treatment in which the cancer cells are destructed with the help of small doses of radiation. When the cancer has spread to other parts of the body as well then chemotherapy is used to control the condition. When the tumor becomes large, then two or more of these treatments are carried out.
Aftercare of cancer treatment is very crucial to rehabilitate the patient. This helps the patient to cope up with the changes in their physical health. Dietitians, speech therapists, physiotherapists, etc., need to be consulted for this purpose. To recover from the mental trauma, clinical psychologist and counselors are the most helpful. Regular monitoring is essential to ensure that the cancer does not reoccur.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.