Occurrence of a malignant tumor in the throat is known as throat cancer. Doctors determine the course of the treatment after knowing the stage of the cancer.
The throat consists of a muscular tube that begins just behind the tongue and runs down the neck. Cancerous tumors in the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), or tonsils are all examples of this type of cancer. X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and/or MRIs help detect the abnormal growth of cells or development of a tumor. Endoscopy, biopsy, etc., help confirm the diagnosis of cancer. Staging is based on the location of the cancer in the throat, size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes are attacked by cancerous cells, and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. The stages tell us about the nature and extent of the cancer in the body.
- Excessive smoking
- Chewing tobacco
- Alcohol abuse
- Human papillomavirus 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
- Persistent cough
- Pain or difficulty in swallowing
- Undesired weight loss
- Ear pain
- A lump in the back of the mouth, throat, or neck
- Difficulty in breathing
- Bleeding from the throat or blood-tinged sputum
The prognosis varies according to stages. Prognosis for the cancer at stage 1 is more favorable than at stage 4. Age and general health also influence a person’s prognosis. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are more effective when the cancer is detected in its early stages. With the help of surgery, the cancerous tissue is removed. There are more chances of recovery when the cancer is detected in the first or second stage.
When cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is known as metastatic throat cancer, and if the cancer returns after initial treatment, it is known as recurrent throat cancer
- Stage 1: The tumor is less than one inch in size and has not attacked the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2: The tumor size is between one and two inches, but it has not invaded the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: The tumor is quite big (more than two inches), and the cancer has invaded one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the tumor. The size of the lymph node containing cancerous cells is smaller than three centimeters.
- Stage 4: The cancer is detected in multiple lymph nodes, or in any lymph node that is larger than six centimeters. It has spread to the nearby tissues, such as tissues around the lips and mouth.
Stage 4 Prognosis
Unfortunately, more than 70% of patients have the advanced stage at the time of diagnosis. Removal of the pharynx or the larynx, or both, is necessary for survival. Neck dissection surgery is required to remove the cancerous cells that have spread beyond the primary site to the lymph nodes, while radiation is required to kill the remaining cancer cells. After such surgeries, patients need to learn new breathing techniques, and new ways to speak and how to use their vocal cords. Specially designed voice aids and surgical restructuring may even be required for speaking. Sometimes, restructuring is necessary for creating a new way for food intake. In short, throat cancer patients undergoing surgeries need extensive rehabilitation.
Stage 4 Survival Rate
As mentioned above, the stage 4 prognosis is quite unfavorable. The survival rate for the cancer at stage 4 is only 30%. This means only 30% of people with the advanced stage of cancer will survive for 5 years. But survival rate for stage 1 is 90%, while survival rate for carcinoma is almost 98%.
It is possible to recover from this disease if it is detected in the early stages. So, one should consult a doctor immediately if any signs of throat discomfort persist for more than fifteen days. The condition in early stages is less severe and can be easily cured.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.