Throat cancer happens when cancerous tumors develop in your throat, known as the pharynx. Around 12,000 Americans each year are affected by cancer of the pharynx. Sometimes the tumors develop at the epiglottis, which is a small piece of bone at the back of your throat that functions as a lid for your windpipe. There are other types of throat cancer, such as nasopharynx, which involve the nasal passages.
Symptoms of Throat Cancer
• Losing lots of weight even when you are eating normally
• Sore throat and/or sores in the throat that don’t get better
• Difficulty swallowing food and drink
• ‘Croaky’ voice
• Pain in your ears
There are lots of other illnesses that cause the same symptoms as throat cancer, so don’t panic, you may not necessarily have cancer if you have these symptoms. If you have any of the symptoms for more than a week or two without recovering, go to your doctor who can examine you and find out more about what may be wrong with you.
What Causes Throat Cancer?
There are a number of different causes, including:
• Drinking too much alcohol
• Eating too many processed foods and not enough fresh fruit and vegetables
• Occupational exposure to Asbestos
• Occupational or other exposure to formaldehyde
• Not brushing your teeth properly
• Oral sex with a HPV (human papilloma virus) infected person.
How is it Diagnosed?
If your family doctor suspects that you have throat cancer, he will refer you to a specialist who will be able to do further tests to confirm this. Cancer can be diagnosed by doing a biopsy, which is taking a small sample of tissue from the throat to see if it is malignant.
You might also be offered an endoscopy. An endoscopy is a procedure where the surgeon puts a small lighted telescope with a microscopic camera on it, down your throat to get a better look.
The stage of cancer you are at (how far it has spread) can be determined by X-rays, CT scans and/or MRI scans by providing your healthcare professionals with detailed images of what is happening internally.