The Types of Throat Cancer
Cancer that originates in the throat, irrespective of the exact location in the throat, is known as throat cancer or primary throat cancer. Malignant tumour or cancer that has its origin in some other body part and has gradually metastasised to the throat is not referred to as throat cancer. It can only be referred to as secondary throat cancer.
At times, cancer of the throat may be diagnosed simultaneously with cancers of other body parts like oesophagus, mouth, bladder, or lung. Some others may develop these cancers in the later stages. Individuals with a past history of smoking and/or alcoholism are at a higher risk of developing throat cancer. As mostly men are known to be smokers as compared to women, the incidence of this cancer is usually higher in men.
The earlier the diagnosis of the medical condition, the better are the chances for the efficacy of treatment. Unfortunately, the medical condition is often difficult to diagnose in the early stages. It is seldom detected before stage III or IV. This is because of its resemblance to the symptoms of other throat diseases like common cold. However, despite effective treatment, the condition might challenge the ability to speak in the future.
The severity of the medical condition depends on the extent of metastasis of the cancer, which determines the stage of the medical condition. The incidence of this cancer is also higher amongst individuals over the age of 55 years.
Throat cancer can be divided into various types based on the part of the throat where it originates.
The common throat cancer types are:
Oropharynx is located in the middle part of the throat, behind the mouth that includes tonsils. It also comprises the base of the tongue, the side walls of the throat, tonsils, and the soft palate, i.e. a part of the roof of the mouth. Cancer that begins here is called oropharyngeal cancer.
This may manifest through symptoms like lump in the throat, difficulty to swallow, persistent or worsening soreness of throat, or ear ache. Infection with HPV (human papillomavirus) is one of the leading risks to this throat cancer type.
Cancer in the lower part of the throat usually manifests through symptoms like prolonged or increasing difficulty in swallowing, ear ache, lumps in the throat, loss of weight, etc.
This is the cancer of the larynx or voice box or vocal cord. This is a tiny channel in front of the lower portion of the throat or pharynx. The cartilaginous larynx comprises the vocal cords that vibrate to produce sound when air clashes against it when we talk. The usual symptoms of this cancer are prolonged and increasing hoarseness of voice, noisy breathing, pain while swallowing, etc.
This starts in the epiglottis or the cartilage that covers the windpipe.
The cancerous cells originate in the upper part of the larynx and the epiglottis.
This is a cancer of the tonsils, located at the back of the throat.
Throat cancer is characterised by rapidly-growing abnormal cells of various parts of the throat, accumulating to develop into a malignant tumour.
Throat cancer is often difficult to diagnose in the early stages of the disease. This is because its possible symptoms are very similar to other medical conditions of the throat like common cold and sore throat. Certain symptoms are typical of a particular throat cancer type than the others. There are a varied range of symptoms, all of which do not usually appear in every patient.
Below are the possible throat cancer symptoms:
- Difficulty and/or pain in swallowing or dysphagia
- Struggles in speaking, chewing, or movement of the tongue or jaw
- Difficulty in opening the mouth fully
- Persistent and worsening condition of soreness of the throat
- Lump in the throat, which might be visible
- Enlarged glands in the neck
- Inflammation, pain, or thickening in the neck or mouth
- Inflammation of the jaws and eyes
- Pain in the side walls of the throat or tonsils
- Bleeding through the mouth or nose
- Stubborn white or red patches in the mouth
- Prolonged condition of soreness of lips or mouth
- Ear ache
- Hoarseness of voice
- Change in the voice, which is largely typical to laryngeal cancer than others
- Wheezing or a sharp whistling sound while inhaling and exhaling
- Chronic cough with or without blood
- Sudden unexplained loss of weight
- An unexplained change in the setting of your teeth or dentures
Certain abnormalities in the cells of the throat due to genetic mutations cause these cells to grow at an unusually rapid rate. The cells continue growing beyond the expected lifespan of healthy cells. They accumulate to form a cancerous or malignant tumour in the throat. There is no conclusive evidence yet regarding the underlying cause of abnormalities in these cells.