Throat cancer symptoms are very hard to spot and often lead to a faulty diagnosis.
Cancer, as we all know, is defined as the unrestrained growth of a particular class of cells in certain body organs. These cells could often metastasize or spread to different other organs in the body. In this particular case, we will be exploring the various symptoms of throat cancer. Spotting these telltale signs would allow us to get immediate treatment and increase our chances of a recovery. But first, let us look into what causes the appearance of these symptoms.
What Causes Throat Cancer Symptoms?
As with everything else, genetics play a major role in cancer. However, in this case, we should also consider some behaviors and habits that would greatly increase our chances of having throat cancer. I am talking about smoking and alcohol consumption. Smokers have 5 to 25 times the risk of developing throat cancer than non-smokers. And it will take the ex-smokers almost 20 years after quitting smoking for that risk to go down.
There are also dietary factors that are related to throat CA. Consumption of processed meat, red meat and betel nut chewing were found to be a big factor. Other causes of throat CA are disease related: Human papillomavirus or HPV, Epstein-Barr virus and GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Getting a hematopoietic stem cell transplant also increases the risk of getting throat cancer. Post transplant patients with throat cancer have poorer prognosis as compared to others.
What are the Symptoms of Throat Cancer?
As mentioned earlier, throat cancer symptoms might become neglected because they also present as symptoms of a milder condition, like laryngitis. The symptoms usually start out mild on the early stages. Early diagnosis is encouraged, so a person should not wait until he experiences chronic symptoms that could make speaking and eating a huge hurdle to consult a doctor.
The following would be some of the most common manifestations of throat CA.
- Sore throat that lasts for more than 2 weeks and is not resolved by antibiotics
- Hoarseness of voice that does not go away for more than 2 weeks
- Pain in the neck area
- Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
- Lump or sore on the neck that does not heal
- Hematemesis or coughing out of blood
- Weight loss that cannot be explained
- Ear pain
- Wheezing or high pitched breath sounds
These symptoms can be mistaken for symptoms of another disease or condition. It is recommended that you consult with a medical professional before you jump to conclusions.
How do They Diagnose Throat Cancer?
Once throat cancer is suspected, the patient would be undergoing some testing to confirm diagnosis. The following would be some of the most common tests performed.
- Endoscopy – with the use of a fiber optic scope with a lighted camera attached to the end, the doctor would be able to visualize the throat and esophagus. The patient would be given a local anesthetic to numb the throat area and a mild sedative 30 minutes before the procedure is performed. Patients should not eat or drink anything or placed on NPO 6 hours prior to the procedure .
- Imaging Studies – this is a series of tests that would help visualize the area better. These are not invasive procedures. Included in the list would be an Upper GI Serieswhich makes use of an X-ray machine, CT Scan or computerized tomography, MRIor magnetic resonance imaging, PET Scan or positron emission tomography. In most of these tests, the patient would also have to be place on NPO 3-6 hours before the procedure is performed.
- Histopathology – this is a surgical procedure where a piece of the lump or tumor would be removed and sent to a laboratory for testing. When the lump is found during endoscopy, the doctor would be able to remove a piece of tissue with the use of the endoscope.
How do you Manage Symptoms of Throat Symptoms?
There are various medical procedures that would help treat throat cancer, among those would be chemotherapy. In chemotherapy, the patient would be given a cocktail of drugs that would help kill the cancer cells. Oftentimes, this is used in conjunction with radiation therapy. In radiation therapy, large amounts of radiation are used to target and kill the cancer cells. It could either be from an external radiation machine, or from small radioactive “seeds” implanted into the body. The latter is called brachytherapy.
Some people opt to undergo surgery and have all the cancer cells removed. This would largely depend on the severity of their condition. Smaller cancer cells could easily be removed during surgery. For larger tumors, your doctor might recommend a laryngectomy, removing all of your voice box. A pharyngectomy would also be done if your entire throat needs to be removed. Reconstructive surgery may be done to allow the patient to swallow food. Other options would include having a PEG tube. This is a tube place on the stomach (See: Stomach cancer), making way for osterized feeding.
The aforementioned are just options for therapy. There is no definite guarantee that the tumor cells would becompletely eradicated. Some patients might be cancer-free after a series of treatments, while others might go through the difficult cycle of recovery and relapse. The best thing that we could do for them is to give them our unconditional love and support. These, sometimes, are the best remedies for the symptoms of throat cancer.