The pharynx is a muscular
and membranous tube extending
lengthwise from the mouth to the esophagus. It is
located between the nasal cavity and the larynx, in
rear of the oral cavity.
Through this channel, the nasal
cavity and larynx communicate. The
pharynx is therefore the intersection between
the deglutition(swallowing) and breathing tubes. The nasopharynx
is the portion of the pharynx
that is located behind the nasal
Pharyngeal cancer is a malignant tumor
of the pharynx, occurring when a group of cells start reproducing anarchically without passing
through the natural programmed
cell death, apoptosis. The tumor usually
develops within the pharynx wall by proliferation of cancer cells.
cancer is rare in the world, and it occurs mainly in men, between 45 and 65 years.
Pharyngeal Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
cancer causes are not clearly known to scientists; some factors are suspected however.
The main risk factors of the disease are
tobacco and alcohol that mutually reinforce
their harmful effects. Professional risk is also present in business exposure to the
inhalation of carcinogenic dust (wood dust, asbestos,
etc.) or toxic substances (nickel
compounds, sulfuric acid vapors, hydrocarbons, paints, and others).
Normally, the pharynx is
in contact with the air and the food we eat; it is subject to many attacks, primarily tobacco, the leading cause of cancer
death in the world; and alcohol. Association of alcohol and tobacco is
responsible for about 9 out of 10 airway cancers:
nasal cancer, pharyngeal cancer, throat
cancer, lung cancer… Hot, cold
and all pollutants from the atmosphere
can increase the risk to develop Pharyngeal cancer in fragile individuals, people
with weak immune system for instance.
These repeated attacks end up damaging
the cells of the pharynx wall, which, at a
certain age or due certain carcinogenic attacks, eventually turn into malignant
cells, hence the formation and proliferation of cancer cells.
Pharyngeal Cancer Symptoms
symptoms tend to manifest
late, discreet and confused with
minor infection or irritation of the throat, which is
typical among smokers. These symptoms or
warning signs are therefore often overlooked. But without proper treatment,
these symptoms may progress to:
loss of smell
decrease in hearing
in the ear
or pain in one side of the
accompanied by pain that radiates to the
from the nose or
of painless ganglion at the corner of
the jaw or neck
and unexplained weight loss, which tends to be associated with loss
of appetite in most patients.
Pharyngeal Cancer Diagnosis
After careful examination of the mouth cavity, as well as the
ears, neck, and nodes, the health care provider will conduct more
specific tests: either remotely, using a dental
mirror and pulling the
tongue to release the larynx; or
directly, introducing a laryngoscope through the throat; or
using a fiberscope through the mouth or
nose after local anesthesia of the back of the throat.
Pharyngeal Cancer diagnosis also includes endoscopy to allow the physician
to view all of the upper respiratory and
digestive tracts. If cancerous growth is suspected, a biopsy is performed to take
samples for microscopic examination. A CT scan
of the throat and chest X-ray confirm
the diagnosis and rule out or not presence of metastasis.
Pharyngeal Cancer Treatment
confirmed to be positive, the oncologist will do a
staging of the tumor and assess the health status of the patient to determine an
In most cases, pharyngeal cancer treatment involves surgery and radiotherapy if the cancer is
localized. The radiation therapy is important in order to kill all remaining cancer cells.
Sometimes the pharyngeal cancer treatment starts with
chemotherapy to reduce the tumor size. If this results in an apparent destruction or
almost complete elimination of the
cancer, treatment is then completed with radiotherapy
without surgery. But if there is local
and regional expansion, chemotherapy is almost
generally recommended in the pharyngeal cancer