Throat cancer is among the cancers of the head and neck, also called cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract or neck cancer. The tumor usually forms in the larynx or the pharynx. These two hollow organs include all the tissues which allow swallowing, speech and breathing. They are located in the area that starts behind the nose and down to the neck.
Types of Throat Cancer
Throat cancer is categorized in different types, according to the tissue affected:
- Nasopharyngeal cancer starts in the part of the respiratory system directly behind the nose.
- Oropharyngeal cancer affects the zone that begins in the upper portion of the throat situated behind the oral cavity and comprises the rear part of the tongue, soft palate and tonsils.
- Hypopharynx cancer affects the portion of the throat just above the esophagus and trachea.
- Glottic Cancer (cancer of the glottis) develops in the vocal cords.
- Epiglottic cancer (cancer of the epiglottis) affects the epiglottis, a thin, valvelike, cartilaginous structure that covers the glottis during swallowing, preventing the entrance of food and drink into the larynx.
- Subglottic Cancer (cancer of the subglottis) forms in the part of the larynx located below the vocal cords.
Throat cancers are quite common in different parts of the world, in part because of the increase in smoking and alcohol consumption. Men are the most affected, especially males aged between 50 and 70 years. But regardless you are man or woman, early diagnosis and treatment is important to avoid fetal complications. The therapy (ies) recommended by your oncologist depends on several aspects: stage at diagnosis, your age, general health status, and others…
Since the tumor appears in the larynx or pharynx, “One of the first throat cancer symptoms localized in the pharynx is a persistent sore throat that lasts more than three weeks, and resistant to antibiotics. This requires immediate medical care. Without an effective therapy (please see throat cancer treatment), the tumor will continue to grow by creating ulcerations on the walls of the pharynx that do not heal, and then metastases. Another early symptom is abnormal voice changes (hoarseness), this is because most throat cancers begin on the vocal cords. Please see throat cancer symptoms for more information.
In the first stage of the disease, the tumor is confined to the cells where it is formed; it is a carcinoma in situ. This means that it has not seeped into the lower layers of mucous or other parts of the body. But if the carcinoma in-situ is not treated, the tumor can spread to the deeper layers of the mucosa and become invasive squamous cell carcinoma.
Although they are not the only factors, tobacco use and consumption of alcohol are the two main causes of head and neck cancers. In rare cases, exposure to carcinogenic substances or toxins (wood dust, chromic acid, nickel …) in work places of certain occupations may be involved.