Throat Cancer Symptoms and Signs

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What is Throat Cancer?

One of the challenges in medicine is that many diseases share the same symptoms. A simple sore throat or a cough are usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection and aren’t considered very serious. But sometimes they might be a sign of more dangerous conditions such as throat cancer.
Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that starts in the swallowing, speaking or breathing organs. [1]

Before taking a look at the most common symptoms of Throat Cancer, here is a bit of information about the disease for better understanding.

Throat cancer has a 5-year-survival rate of 35 to 77% depending on the type and stage, which means that 35 to 80% of the people diagnosed with it will live for at least five years after being diagnosed. [2]

Throat cancers tend to develop very quickly, that’s why the earlier you get medical attention and start treatment, the more chances you have to recover. Let’s learn about the symptoms, complications, and risk factors of throat cancer.

Types and Stages of Throat Cancer.

Throat cancer can be laryngeal or pharyngeal depending on its location. Pharyngeal cancer occurs in the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat behind the nose), oropharynx (the part behind the mouth), or hypopharynx (the narrow area behind the voice box). It might cause difficulty breathing, chewing and swallowing. Laryngeal cancer may happen in the glottis (the part that holds the vocal cords), supraglottis (the area above the glottis), or subglottis (the area below the vocal cords and above the windpipe). It might cause an inability to speak. [1, 3]

According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing laryngeal cancer is about 1 in 190 for men, and 1 in 830 for women. Pharyngeal cancers are less common, but survival rates are also lower. [4, 2]

Each type of throat cancer develops differently, but the overall staging is as follows:

  • Stages I and II are smaller cancers that remain in one area of the organ;
  • Stage III cancer may affect lymph nodes or other parts of the throat;
  • Stage IV cancer can spread to lymph nodes and different parts of the head, neck, chest, or even to distant parts of the body like the lungs or the liver. [1]

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