Cells in the body that multiply uncontrollably and form tumors cause cancer.
Throat cancer is a term that is collectively used to describe cancers that affect the throat and structures within its surrounding areas. Generally, throat cancer refers to cancers of the head and neck, and cancer in the pharynx, which is the medical name for the throat.
Throat cancers are broadly divided into either pharyngeal or laryngeal cancers.
Pharyngeal cancers are further divided into the following subtypes:
- Nasopharyngeal cancer affects the upper part of the throat.
- Oropharyngeal cancer affects the middle part of the throat.
- Hypopharyngeal cancer occurs in the bottom part of the throat.
Laryngeal cancers occur in the voice box and can be any of the following subtypes:
- Glottic cancer (also known as vocal cord cancer) arises from the vocal cords.
- Supraglottic cancer affects the upper part of the larynx including the epiglottis, a cartilage structure that prevents food from entering the windpipe.
- Subglottic cancer arises in the lower portion of the voice box.
Most types of throat cancer have tumors that are formed from the same type of cells. These cells are called squamous cell carcinomas, after the flat cells that line the throat. Rarely, throat cancers are caused by adenocarcinoma, which involve glandular cells. Additionally, throat cancers can include thyroid cancer and other types of mouth cancer. Next, you’re probably wondering what are the signs and symptoms of throat cancer. The most common signs include:
- Persistent cough
- Persistent sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in voice and speech such as hoarseness
- Ear pain
- Lump that does not resolve on its own
- Sore that does not heal
- Lymph node swelling
- Weight loss
Throat cancer can be caused by many factors, so it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what leads to a throat cancer diagnosis. When it comes to how common is throat cancer, compared to other types of cancer, throat cancer is relatively less common. However, statistics have shown that men are five times more likely to develop throat cancer than women. Additionally, people over the age of 65 are also at higher risk.
Here is a guide to the major causes and risks for throat cancer:
Certain genetic syndromes can increase the risk of throat and mouth cancer. These syndromes are caused by specific genetic mutations or defects. These include Fanconi anemia and Dyskeratosis congenita, which can increase the risk of developing throat cancer at a young age.
Human papillomavirus infections have been associated with the development of cervical cancer. HPV infection can also cause throat cancers that affect the back of the throat, such as the tonsils or tongue. HPV infections do not usually cause laryngeal cancer. Certain precautions, such as getting an HPV vaccination, can reduce this risk by preventing HPV infections from occurring.
Tobacco use is the highest risk factor for the development of head and neck cancers, including those occurring in the larynx and hypopharynx. Most people that develop head and neck cancers have a history of smoking or tobacco use. Generally, the more you smoke, the higher your risk of developing throat cancer.
Excessive alcohol intake
Having more than one alcoholic drink a day can increase the risk of developing throat cancers. By itself, alcohol use is not as big a risk factor for causing throat cancer compared to smoking. However, people that use both alcohol and tobacco are at highest risk of developing throat, head, or neck cancer.
Eating a diet that lacks fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of developing head and neck cancers. The exact reason for this is not known, but many cancer patients have vitamin deficiencies that indicate a lack of nutrition.
Poor dental hygiene
Not maintaining proper oral hygiene can be the cause of head and neck cancers. Good dental hygiene lowers the risk of both pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is caused by acid that backs up from the stomach into the esophagus, causing heartburn. GERD is associated with an increased risk of developing cancers of the esophagus.
Long-term exposure to certain chemicals can increase your risk of laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer. These chemicals are present in the workplace of some industries, such as paint fumes, wood dust, and chemicals used in the petroleum, textile, and plastics industries. Asbestos is a fiber that was formerly used as insulation material before it was proven to cause cancer. Today, we know that asbestos can cause both lung and throat cancers.
These risk factors do not necessarily mean that you will develop cancer. Some people develop throat cancer without any of these risk factors being present. Some of these risks, such as smoking and alcohol intake, can be controlled through lifestyle changes. If you believe you have any symptoms of throat cancer, proper diagnosis is important. How to treat throat cancer will then be recommended to the patient based on the diagnosis. Common throat cancer treatment methods include radiation therapy, surgery, and therapy with targeted drugs.
Written By: Dr. Pablo Orozco
Dr. Pablo Orozco is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Orozco has been a treating physician at the Immunity Therapy Center for more than 3 years providing daily on site patient care. He works with patients on a daily basis and guides them through the treatment process. Dr. Orozco’s passion for Alternative Cancer Treatments along with his commitment to patient care is key to insure that our patients have the best experience and results possible.
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.