Throat Cancer

Throat Cancer in the pharynx

In throat cancer, malignant tumors develop in the pharynx, almost always in the mucous membrane. Throat cancer is more common in men than women and mainly in people over 50 years of age. This form of cancer is relatively rare. In 2013, nearly six hundred people in the Netherlands had throat cancer.

See also, What is cancer and how does it occur?

Symptoms of throat cancer

There are many different symptoms of a throat tumor. They are often unclear, so that throat cancer is discovered too late. Common symptoms of throat cancer are:

  • The feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Swelling in the neck (painless)

The symptoms of throat cancer usually depend on where the tumor originated. Throat cancer may involve a nose-pharyngeal tumor, mouth-pharyngeal tumor and pharyngeal tumor.

Symptoms of nasopharyngeal tumors

Possible symptoms with a nasopharyngeal tumor are:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Stuffy nose
  • Ear complaints
  • Headache
  • Double or reduced vision

Symptoms mouth-pharyngeal tumors

Possible symptoms with a mouth-pharyngeal tumor are:

  • Lots of mucus in the throat
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Pain in the pharynx
  • Pain radiating from the throat to the ear
  • Small wound or sore that does not heal in the throat, on the soft palate or on the almond region

Symptoms pharyngeal tumors

Possible symptoms with a pharyngeal tumor are:

  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Blood in mucus
  • Less mobile tongue
  • Stuffiness
  • Slimming

Have you been bothered by (one of) these complaints for more than three weeks? Then go to the doctor. He will investigate where your complaints come from and refer you to the ENT doctor if necessary.

Causes of throat cancer

There are several risk factors in the development of throat cancer. The main causes are tobacco (smoking and chewing) and (excessive) alcohol consumption. A combination of alcohol and tobacco use gives an even greater risk. Other causes of throat cancer are:

  • Bad oral hygiene
  • Bad nutrition
  • Chronic irritation from inflammation
  • Heredity: it is possibly hereditary determined what effect carcinogenic substances have from outside. For example, smoking increases the risk of throat cancer in one person than in anyone else.

HPV virus throat

HPV (human papillomavirus) is also a possible cause of throat cancer. This virus is transmitted through sexual contact and can also cause cervical cancer in women. (Unprotected) oral sex increases the risk of throat cancer due to HPV. HPV, unlike throat cancer, is contagious. HPV can therefore be transferred to others, but this is not the case with throat cancer.

Treatment of throat cancer

If a throat tumor is detected in time, it can usually still be treated well and the chance of survival is high. Depending on the stage and size of the throat tumor, radiation or surgery is required.

Radiation therapy for throat cancer

If the throat tumor is detected at an early stage and/or when the tumor is small, the tumor will be irradiated. Cancer cells are destroyed by radioactive radiation.

Throat cancer surgery

In other cases, surgery is sometimes required. Especially when the tumor is large. In that case, the lymph nodes in the area around the tumor are often also removed. This reduces the risk of metastasis.

Throat cancer survival rate

Throat cancer is referred to as a ‘survival rate after five years’, because before that there is always a chance that the tumor will come back. If the tumor is detected early, the chance of survival is on average about 70-90%, but this is different in every situation. What your situation looks like and what the expectations are, is therefore always discussed with the attending physician.

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