Throat cancer, which occurs when the cells in the throat begin to divide at an out of control rate, is accompanied with a number of symptoms, many of which are also associated with less serious conditions or other medical problems. Patients who identify the symptoms of throat cancer should make an appointment to see a medical professional in a timely fashion, and they should not worry about being wrong; a healthcare practitioner would much rather give a patient a clean bill of health or some antibiotics for a mild sore throat than see a patient with throat cancer after it is too late.
Many of the symptoms of this type of cancer involve breathing, swallowing, and eating. The patient may have difficulty breathing, develop high pitched breath sounds, have difficulty swallowing, or feel like he or she has a lump in the throat that makes it difficult to eat and drink. Voice changes, such as hoarseness or changes in pitch, can also accompany throat cancer, and the throat may feel painful, sore or tender. The lymph glands in the throat may also become swollen.
Other symptoms of throat cancer can include frequent headaches, recurrent sinus infections, a persistent sore throat or cough, pain or paralysis in the facial muscles, ear pain, and unexplained weight loss. The symptoms may be subtle at first and attributed to a more general malaise or a resilient sore throat. More serious symptoms can include bleeding from the nose or coughing up blood and the appearance of lumps in other areas of the body, suggesting that the cancer has begun to spread.
A patient who suspects that he or she has throat cancer will be examined by a medical professional who will physically examine the throat, interview the patient, and order medical tests, such as biopsies of the throat and imaging studies, to look for signs of abnormal growth. If a cancerous growth is detected, a pathologist will determine the type of cancer involved and the stage of the cancer, and the patient will see an oncologist to discuss treatment options.
Cancer of the throat can be treated with chemotherapy and radiation, and the prognosis varies, depending on the cancer, the patient, and when the cancer is caught. The earlier the symptoms are identified, the better the prognosis, as the patient will be able to benefit from early intervention. When discussing throat cancer treatment with a medical professional, patients may want to ask about all of the options, the prognosis with each option, the side effects associated with different treatments, and the amount of time that will be required for treatment.