Your doctor will consider the extension of the tumor along with your age and your general health to determine the treatment most appropriate and effective to fight it. In general, earlier the cancer is diagnosed, more chance you have to survive.
Throat cancer can be treated with surgery, radiotherapy, and/or chemotherapy; sometimes a combination of these treatments is used. However, the treatment of choice for early-stage throat cancer is radiation therapy. If the cancer is advanced, but operable, your health care provider can combine the radiation with surgery and /or chemotherapy.
If surgery can be performed, your surgeon will perform one of these surgical operations:
- Laryngectomy – during this surgical procedure, your surgeon removes part or the entire larynx, and makes a sort of opening in your neck so you can breathe. This will damage your vocal cords; however, there are several solutions that can help you speak or communicate with others. In fact, the majority of throat cancer victims having had a laryngectomy manage to communicate well with others as before the surgery (see complications for details).
- Pharyngectomy – this is a major surgery consists of removing the pharynx, in whole or in part. In case you have a localized or early stage throat cancer, your surgeon can perform a partial pharyngectomy; in advanced throat cancer, however, a total pharyngectomy is often performed to remove the tumor completely.
- Neck dissection – neck dissection is sometimes practiced when thecancer has spread to the tissue of the neck; the goal of the surgery is to remove cancerous lymph nodes.
Radiation Therapy (radiotherapy)
Radiotherapy is a therapeutic method commonly used to treat throat cancer. It consists of using ionizing radiation to kill cancer cells in order to shrink or eliminate the tumor. If you have an early stage (stage 1 and even 2) throat cancer, radiation therapy may be the ideal choice; in fact, many of throat cancer diagnosed early treated solely by radiotherapy. In addition, unlike surgery, radiation therapy has no or less permanent physiological effects; it does not damage your vocal cords; that is, the quality of your voice does not change.
However, radiotherapy is sometimes associated with temporary side effects:
- sore throat
- voice change (temporary)
- mouth sores
- sensitivity of the mouth and gums
- lower production of saliva (dry mouth)
- redness and dryness of the skin
- Loss of taste or smell.
Throat Cancer Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy involves using powerful chemical agents (drugs) to slow down or stop the uncontrolled reproduction of cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is not always practical in the treatment of throat cancer; it is necessary if the cancer has spread elsewhere or if the cancer is aggressive. Unlike radiotherapy, chemotherapy drugs circulate throughout your body and affect all organs. While attacking cancer cells, chemotherapy drugs also damage healthy cells that multiply rapidly, which often causes side effects:
- decreased appetite
- hair loss
- nausea and vomiting
- Mouth sores.