Throat cancer is considered malignant growth that develops inside your throat, voicebox, and also tonsils. The risk of having this type of cancer are mostly acquired by lifestyle and environmental factors such as tobacco use, pollutants, frequent infections and also repeated irritation by acidic gastric contents (GERD). These kinds of environmental influence can cause genetic mutations of mucosal cells located at your throat area, causing abnormal rapid growth. Although, familial predisposition of genetic mutations are not excluded in throat cancers. Hence, a full medical history has to be acquired before proceeding into specified interventions that are needed to be done for throat cancers. Fortunately, this cancer is relatively uncommon compared to other cancers.
Throat cancers have many types, depending on their location. They are either located at the deepest part of the mouth (Oropharyngeal cancer), Pharynx (pharyngeal cancer), or at the voice box (Laryngeal cancer) and can be mixed (eg Oropharyngeal cancer). Sometimes their location can be indistinct, which may cause confusion in its presentation and options for interventions. Several cases of throat cancer had growths extending to the esophageal mucosa. However, these types of throat cancer produce almost similar signs and presentations that are correlated with its degree of extension.
It is important to know the later symptoms of pharyngeal cancers or laryngeal cancers to know what you are dealing with. Initially, a person suffering from throat cancer can produce only vague and general symptoms such as:
- Fatigue and weakness. They experience extreme tiredness and unable to engage normal daily activities
- Especially dry cough
- Sore throat which later are accompanied by hoarseness of voice
- Sudden weight loss. Cachexia is one of the general symptoms of cancer
- Ear pain due to infiltration of nerves supplying the middle ear or direct extension and concurrent infections that spread via the eustachian tube.
They may experience a gradual onset of these symptoms, and develop other signs that are more seriously distinct. Such as:
- Hoarseness of voice. This is due to cancer infiltrating the recurrent laryngeal nerve causing sudden deepening of the voice, or direct extension towards the vocal cords, causing its disrupted movement. They may experience difficulty in pronouncing words, similar to voice deepening during pubertal changes.
- Difficulty in swallowing or dysphagia. Tumours may interfere with passage of bolus and also disrupts normal peristalsis. They may indirectly cause the loss of appetite, leading to weight loss. You may notice them prefer eating soft foods such as porridge, oatmeals, and yogurts.
- Aspiration of food contents due to failing esophageal peristaltic movements or direct blockage by the tumour itself. It is common for some laryngeal cancer patients to develop difficulty in breathing due to pneumonia.
- Throat lump. This however provides a lot of other causative possibilities besides cancer such as gout, thyroid malignancies and viral infections such as mumps. Lump at the throat might be uncomfortable and disfiguring for most patients. However, it’s size does not reflect the severity of the malignancy because sometimes it may grow inward with more higher infiltrating spread across regional lymph nodes.
- Ear pain. As mentioned, the tumour itself may infiltrate the sensory nerve supply of the skin and mucosa of the ear and maybe due to direct extension of the tumour covering the Eustachian tube. Some studies correlate ear infection and pharyngeal cancer are quite common depending on the stage. A person might feel uneasiness around the ear or tenderness, but not to an extent of deafness. Some might complain of a slight loss of balance.
- Swollen lymph nodes which indicates the spread of malignant cells into regional lymph nodes. Having these indicates them to have Stage 3 throat cancer the very least. They might experience swellings above the clavicle, around the neck and most importantly underneath the armpits. Each of these sites might be a parameter of the patient’s prognosis. These swellings are characterized as fixed, hard, and non-tender nodules.
- Coughing of blood or expectoration of blood that comes from irritation of the tumour upon a normal cough. Some also might experience blood-tinged sputum.
- Dyspnea might occur due to the tumour blocking the airway by extension below the vocal chord.
Either way, it is best to speak to your doctor further about the alarming symptoms of throat cancer to prevent its progression that might harm your overall health.