What is Throat Cancer?
What is Throat Cancer? Throat cancer is a malignant tumor that grows and develops in the throat area. These tumors come from cells that multiply in an uncontrolled amount.
Based on the type of cell that turns into cancer, the throat cancer is divided into two, namely squamous cell carcinoma (abnormalities occur in the cell membrane) and adenocarcinoma (abnormalities occur in gland cells).
Meanwhile, based on the throat area is attacked, throat cancer grouped into 3, namely cancer of the pharynx, larynx, and tonsils. Pharyngeal cancer itself is subdivided into 3 types, namely nasopharyngeal cancer (cancer that attacks the top of the throat), oropharynx (cancer that attacks the middle of the throat), and hipofaring (cancer that strikes the bottom of the throat).
In Indonesia, throat cancer, especially nasopharyngeal cancer, ranks 4th as the most common cancer after breast cancer, cervical cancer, and lung cancer. GLOBOCAN data in 2012 indicates there are at least 87,000 new cases of nasopharyngeal cancer each year, of which 70% of the sufferers are male.
High enough number of throat cancer patients indicate that appropriate understanding and precautions are needed, so the incidence of cancer in the future can be suppressed.
Throat Cancer Symptoms
Symptoms of throat cancer may vary and are not the same in each patient.
Some indications include:
- Difficult to swallow.
- Sound changes, such as hoarseness or unclear speech.
- Chronic cough.
- Sore throat.
- Sick or buzzing ears.
- Lumps that do not heal.
- Weight loss for no apparent reason.
- Swelling of the eyes, jaw, throat, or neck.
Symptoms of throat cancer tend to be similar to other health problems, making it difficult to detect. Consultation with your doctor should be done if you experience any of the above symptoms, especially those that do not improve or get worse.
Causes and Risk Factors of Throat Cancer
All cancers occur as a result of mutations in the cells. This mutation triggers an uncontrolled cell growth. Similarly with throat cancer.
The cause behind the mutation process is not yet known for certain. But there are a number of factors that allegedly can increase a person’s risk for throat cancer, such as lifestyle and health conditions. Some examples are:
- Tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarettes or chewing.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Dental health is not maintained.
- Less consumption of fruits and vegetables.
- HPV infection (human papillomavirus) and gastric acid or GERD.
Diagnosis of Throat Cancer
In the early stages of the diagnosis, the doctor will inquire about symptoms and medical history, as well as perform a physical examination. If the patient is suspected of having throat cancer, a more detailed examination will be recommended to confirm the diagnosis. Types of checks include:
- Endoscopy or laryngoscopy.
- Tissue sampling or biopsy.
- X-rays, CT, MRI, and PET scans. This examination is used to determine the extent of the spread of throat cancer.
Throat Cancer Stage
Knowing how far the spread of throat cancer will help the doctor to determine the treatment steps that will be undertaken by the patient. The spread is divided into five levels or stages, namely:
- Stage 0: the tumor is only in the tissue in the throat.
- Stage 1: tumor is small (below 7 cm) and only attacks the throat.
- Stage 2: The tumor is larger, but it has not spread beyond the throat.
- Stage 3: The tumor has spread to tissues or other organs near the throat.
- Stage 4: The tumor has spread to tissues or organs outside the throat and / or lymph nodes.
Throat Cancer Treatment
Each throat cancer patient usually needs different treatments. Determination of the best handling method depends on the health condition of the patient, the location of the growth of cancer, as well as the stage of the cancer itself.
Early detection and treatment is the key to dealing with all cancers, including throat cancer. Some handling steps that will generally be undertaken by patients include:
Radiotherapy. If the cancer is in the early stages, radiotherapy is sometimes quite effective in overcoming it. As for advanced cancer, radiotherapy is performed only to reduce symptoms and slow the progression of cancer.
Chemotherapy. Radiotherapy is also sometimes combined with chemotherapy because there are several types of chemotherapy drugs that can increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to the radiotherapy process. However, this combination process will increase the potential for side effects of radiotherapy as well as chemotherapy.
Surgery. Methods of operation for throat cancer there are several types. The doctor will determine the type of surgery required based on the stage and location of the growth of the cancer. The types of operations include:
- Surgical removal by endoscopy. This procedure is recommended for early-stage throat cancer.
- Laryngectomy or surgical removal of part or all of the voice box affected by cancer. This operation is performed to deal with small tumors.
- Pharyngectomy or procedure of removal of part or all of the throat part.
- Procedure for removal of lymph node stain that is attacked by cancer. This surgery is performed if the cancer is already widespread in the neck. This process is also used to examine the extent of spread of cancer cells in the lymph nodes
Drugs. Another handling step is with drug therapy that generally uses cetuximab. This process will target the weakness in cancer cells to inhibit its growth.
Throat cancer treatment methods can cause various complications and side effects, such as disruption of ability to speak, eat, or swallow. Before undergoing certain medical treatment, the patient should discuss with the doctor about all the risks.
To maximize throat cancer treatment, there are a number of simple steps that can be done. Among them is to stop smoking and stay away from alcohol consumption.
In addition to reducing the effectiveness of treatment methods, smoking and alcohol consumption can slow the body’s recovery process and increase the risk of recurrence of throat cancer.