The medical term for throat cancer is laryngeal carcinoma and is a malignant tumor that occurs rarely.
What is throat cancer?
Unlike other types of cancer, laryngeal cancer symptoms can appear early. In particular, persistent hoarseness can occur with glottic laryngeal tumors.
Larynx cancer is divided into three different groups, namely above and inside the area of the larynx and below in the area of the larynx. This is also where the vocal cords are located.
At the top of the trachea is the larynx, which is a skeleton of several cartilaginous plates connected by muscles and ligaments. The cartilage plate closes the entrance to the larynx as an epiglottis when swallowing. This is to ensure that no food can get into the airways. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Throat Cancer.
Part of the larynx, called the glottis, consists of the vocal cords. By definition, laryngeal cancer is a tumor of the upper airways and alimentary tract. Overall, this type of cancer accounts for about 1.5 percent of all cancers. In comparison, this is relatively rare. In addition, it is mainly men between the ages of 65 and 69 who develop throat cancer.
The causes of laryngeal cancer have not yet been clarified. However, it is certain that there is an increased risk from inhaling toxins such as tobacco or wood dust.
In addition, the risk is increased by the simultaneous consumption of alcohol. Smokers therefore have a greatly increased risk of developing throat cancer.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Laryngeal cancer can cause different symptoms depending on the location of the carcinoma. Cancers of the tongue can cause visible swelling, burning and itching, and ulcers can develop. If the floor of the mouth or lower jaw is affected, severe pressure pain can occur when wearing a prosthesis. Carcinomas in the throat can cause difficulty swallowing or an increasing foreign body sensation.
In addition, repeated bleeding can occur. Laryngeal cancer can cause non-specific sore throat and ear pain that has no specific cause. It can also lead to loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss. If the disease progresses, breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath and an increasing feeling of illness, develop.
Carcinomas in the area of the glottis cause persistent hoarseness, accompanied by a scratchy throat and a compulsion to clear the throat. In the advanced stage, breathing noises or even shortness of breath occur. If the carcinoma is located in the lower larynx, swallowing difficulties and pain can occur. Subglottic carcinomas hardly cause any symptoms; hoarseness and breathing problems only occur at a later stage. The symptoms and signs of throat cancer generally come on gradually and get worse as the disease progresses.
Diagnosis & History
Unlike other types of cancer, laryngeal cancer symptoms can appear early. In particular, persistent hoarseness can occur with glottic laryngeal tumors. Other symptoms include a foreign body sensation in the throat and a frequent need to clear your throat.
Difficulty swallowing can also be a first sign. However, these symptoms are non-specific and can also be signs of other diseases. However, a doctor should be consulted if hoarseness lasts longer than two weeks.
In the advanced stage, there is pain when swallowing, which can radiate to the ear. Shortness of breath and bloody, mucous sputum can also occur in the advanced stage. Furthermore, there are other side effects in the form of weakness, exhaustion, tiredness and rapid weight loss.
In the case of throat cancer, it is important that an early diagnosis is made. If hoarseness lasts longer, a doctor can usually find out the cause quickly. The doctor will also inquire about existing risk factors, such as nicotine and alcohol consumption and any existing previous illnesses.
A laryngeal endoscopy can be used to confirm the diagnosis. A tissue sample is then taken and examined in the laboratory. If the diagnosis is certain, imaging methods such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging can show how far the tumor has spread.
Laryngeal cancer can have undesirable physical consequences. Possible complications of this malignant tumor include compulsion to clear your throat and chronic urge to cough. In advanced stages, many of those affected also suffer from breathing difficulties up to and including shortness of breath.
There is a possibility that cancer of the larynx leads to the formation of metastases in other organs. These tumors spread primarily to the lymph node system. This spread usually only occurs in the advanced stage. Long-term follow-up care is recommended for laryngeal cancer, because ten to twenty percent of those affected develop another carcinoma.
Furthermore, under certain circumstances, the treatment of the malignant tumor disease entails complications. Radiation therapy can damage healthy tissue. As early radiation damage, those affected feel a so-called radiation hangover with nausea, fatigue and lack of appetite, which disappears after the end of therapy. Radiation therapy also irritates the skin and mucous membranes. As a result, the gums, esophagus or other organs may become inflamed.
If tissue is destroyed over a large area by the radiation, this is considered late radiation damage. Complications are also possible during the surgical removal of a tumor from the larynx area. In addition to bleeding, nerve injuries or the loss of the sense of smell can occur. If the entire larynx has to be removed, the patient receives an artificial replacement for the voice-producing organ.
When should you go to the doctor?
Unusual swelling of the neck or a lump forming near the larynx is a cause for concern. Consultation with a doctor is necessary as a life-threatening condition can develop without timely medical evaluation and treatment. If there are gradual and persistent changes in voice, hoarseness lasting several weeks or reduced voice volume, a doctor should be consulted. If you have problems swallowing, refusing to eat or drinking less fluids, it is advisable to see a doctor for a check-up.
A doctor must be consulted if there are disturbances in breathing activity, interruptions in breathing or shortness of breath. If you have a tight or foreign body sensation in your throat, skin changes on your neck or if you feel anxious, you should consult a doctor. A persistent cough, scratchy throat, or persistent urge to cough should be evaluated and treated. Repeated sputum production of blood is an alarming warning sign that should be followed up.
Existing complaints or pain radiate to the region of the ears, a doctor should be consulted so that comprehensive examinations to clarify the cause can be initiated. Whistling noises in the ear are considered unusual and should also be checked out by a doctor. Since throat cancer is fatal if left untreated, a doctor’s visit is required as soon as possible at the first sign of the disease.
Treatment & Therapy
Various surgical procedures, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are available for the treatment of laryngeal cancer. Which procedure is used depends on the type of cancer, its location, size and extent.
Since the surgical techniques are constantly being developed, a CO2 laser can also be used. In the advanced stage, the therapy can also be combined from several procedures. If an operation and removal of the entire larynx is necessary, medical and psychological care is important for the patient.
There is often considerable psychological stress after the operation. With appropriate speech therapy, the patient can learn to communicate with his fellow human beings again.
The course and prognosis of laryngeal cancer depends crucially on the time of diagnosis. It also plays a role where the tumor is located, how big it is and whether secondary tumors (metastases) have already formed. Patients with small laryngeal tumors without lymph node metastases have the best chance of recovery. If laryngeal cancer is discovered at an early stage, it can be completely cured.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of laryngeal cancer depends on the size of the tumor and the start of treatment. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the better the chances of a cure. In the early stages of the disease there is a chance of recovery. The prognosis worsens with the size of the tumor and possible spread of the disease. Cancer therapy is associated with various risks and impairments. There is a long-term treatment in which consequential damage or irreparable disorders can occur. In many patients, however, this ensures survival.
If the cancer therapy does not achieve sufficient regression of the tumor, a surgical intervention takes place. The larynx is removed to prevent the cancer from spreading further. Psychological problems often occur, which must be taken into account in the overall prognosis.
Without medical and medical care, the cancer cells can continue to spread unhindered in the organism. Self-help measures or alternative healing methods are not enough to achieve freedom from symptoms. The cells are transported to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and can form metastases there. This threatens the patient with an infestation of organs and a further weakening of health. There is also a risk of premature death, since the cancer cells in an advanced stage of the disease prevent the organism from functioning properly.
Like many other types of cancer, throat cancer cannot be prevented. However, the risk of developing throat cancer can be significantly reduced by not smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. In addition, regular check-ups should be carried out by an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Tumors are one of the most common reasons for follow-up care. On the one hand, this is due to the life-threatening nature of the disease, which carries a high risk of recurrence. On the other hand, if treatment is started in the early stages, the prognosis is significantly better. Follow-up care is therefore also carried out in the case of throat cancer. The scheduled follow-up examinations usually take place in the clinic where the initial treatment was carried out.
Early-stage tumors require a check-up every three months, advanced-stage tumors every six weeks. After the first year of aftercare, the intervals are continuously increased. If no new growth is found in the fifth year after the initial diagnosis, annual follow-up is sufficient. Statistically, the risk of developing a new tumor has decreased significantly.
Computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, blood tests and a larynx endoscopy can be used to diagnose laryngeal cancer. Follow-up care also uses these methods. She is also concerned with reintegration into everyday life. Appropriate pain therapy is usually indicated for this. Psychosocial support is intended to support the patient and prevent subsequent complications. Many doctors order rehabilitation measures in order to pave the way to everyday life under expert guidance in the shortest possible time.
You can do that yourself
The possibilities of self-help are relatively limited in laryngeal cancer. In most cases, those affected require surgical treatment.
The person concerned should primarily refrain from taking alcohol and nicotine. Regular examinations by an ENT doctor can also be used to detect and treat further tumors at an early stage. Since the throat cancer to a permanent hoarseness and leads to a raspy voice, many sufferers tend to clear their throat. However, clearing your throat should be avoided if possible, as this puts a lot of unnecessary strain on the vocal cords and may damage them. Frequent swallowing and taking hot drinks and throat drops helps with hoarseness. Furthermore, most of those affected also suffer from permanent tiredness and exhaustion due to the cancer. Strenuous activities or playing sports should be avoided with laryngeal cancer in order not to unnecessarily stress the body.
In the case of psychological problems, talking to your own family or close friends can be very helpful. Discussions with other people affected by the disease can also have a very positive effect on the course and mental state of the patient.