Cancer is a disease that can progress quickly due to fast growing cells that form tumors. As tumors grow, they can interfere with normal functioning of the body. Sometimes, this manifests as abnormal symptoms that indicate something is not right in the body. Recognizing the signs of cancer early can help stop growth of the tumor and prevent the cancer cells from spreading.
Throat cancers are caused by cancerous cells in the throat and surrounding regions that help us breathe, swallow, and talk. Some of the major types of throat cancer include head and neck cancers, and pharyngeal cancers such as nasopharyngeal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, and hypopharyngeal cancer depending on where they occur in the throat. Laryngeal cancer affects the larynx (or voice box) and vocal cord function. These are called glottis, supraglottis, and subglottis. Other types of throat or oral cancer also include tonsil cancer, thyroid gland cancer, esophageal cancer, and cancers occurring in the salivary glands.
Luckily, in regard to how common is throat cancer, throat cancers are relatively less common than other types of cancer. However, early detection of throat cancer is difficult because its symptoms often resemble less serious conditions that people tend to ignore. If you experience any of the common signs and symptoms of throat cancer for more than two to three weeks, get checked by your doctor. Prompt throat cancer diagnosis can help you get the right cancer care to beat the disease.
Here are the signs and symptoms of throat cancer that you should look out for:
Symptoms of Throat Cancer
Since throat cancer is the name for a broad group of cancers that affect the head, neck, and throat, symptoms can occur anywhere in the mouth, sinuses, throat, or nose.
- Voice changes such as hoarseness or slurred speech are a sign of throat cancer. It can also sound like you always have a cold when you speak.
- A persistent sore throat that causes discomfort or pain in the throat for a prolonged period of time is one of the most common symptoms of throat cancer.
- A persistent cough that does not go away is another throat cancer symptom. Coughing up blood is also a sign.
- Earaches can be caused by throat cancer.
- Lymph node swelling or lumps on the neck that usually grow slowly and do not get smaller without therapeutic treatment are a sign of throat cancer. If you have lumps that are not permanent and change in size on their own, it is probably not due to throat cancer.
- Sores that do not heal on their own are also a sign of throat cancer.
- Trouble swallowing is another common throat cancer symptom. Swallowing food may be accompanied by a feeling of burning or pain, and once you swallow food it may feel like the food is still stuck in your throat.
- Unexplained weight loss is a common sign of cancer. Throat cancer can interfere with the ability to eat food and drink fluids properly, causing weight loss.
- Other signs of throat cancer include headache, nosebleeds, trouble opening your mouth, and difficulty moving your tongue.
The exact symptoms that you may experience will depend on the type of cancer. Some types of throat cancer do not cause any symptoms in the early stages, and you may only experience symptoms and other signs after the disease has already progressed considerably. One example of this is hypopharyngeal cancers that affect the bottom part of the throat. A hypopharyngeal cancer patient often does not have any signs of the disease in the early stages.
Being aware of what is normal for your body is important to detect signs of throat cancer. Some people may have chronic health conditions that cause some of these symptoms. Certain medications can also cause some of these symptoms as a side effect. Only you know what is normal for your body, and anything that does not feel right should be examined by your doctor.
Risk Factors and Prevention
You can greatly decrease your odds of getting throat cancer by cutting out certain risk factors that are known to be what causes throat cancer. These include:
- Smoking– Smoking is highly correlated with the incidence of throat cancer. The more you smoke, the greater the risk of developing it. Quitting smoking can reduce the odds that you will get the disease.
- Alcohol use- Moderate to frequent consumption of alcohol can also put you at higher risk for developing throat cancer. When combined with smoking, this is the highest risk factor for development of the disease.
- HPV (human papillomavirus) infection also increases the risk of oral cancers. HPV infection can cause cervical cancer too. A vaccine that protects against HPV infection is available. HPV vaccination has an age limit, so speak to your doctor about getting the vaccine to prevent this risk factor of throat cancer.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Specific tests are required in the diagnosis of throat cancers. If you are diagnosed with the disease, how to treat throat cancer will vary based on the stage that your cancer is at and what type of throat cancer it is. Common throat cancer treatment approaches include radiation therapy, surgery, and therapy with targeted drugs. You can find out how we treat throat cancer at the Immunity Therapy Center with alternative therapies here.
Written By: Dr. Adolfo Carrillo
Dr. Adolfo Carrillo is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Carrillo has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista for over 5 years as a treating physician at the Immunity the Immunity Therapy Center. Dr. Carrillo is a charismatic Doctor whose knowledge and commitment to patient care and bringing healing to patients is a valuable asset to our center.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.