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Cancer - throat or larynx
Alternative namesVocal cord cancer; Throat cancer; Laryngeal cancer; Cancer of the glottis
DefinitionCancer of the throat involves malignant tumors (growths) on the vocal cords, voice box (larynx), or other areas of the throat.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
People who smoke or otherwise use tobacco are at risk of developing tumors of the throat. Excessive alcohol use also increases risk, and smoking and alcohol use together constitute an extreme risk for the development of throat cancers.
Most cancers of the throat develop in adults older than 50, and men are 10 times more likely than women to develop throat cancers.
Signs and tests
An examination of the neck and throat may show cancers of the throat. The sputum may appear bloody. A lump may appear on the outside of the neck. A laryngoscopy , which is examination by use of a tube with a small lighted camera (laryngoscope), allows the physician to look into the mouth and down the throat to see the tumor.
Biopsy and analysis of tissues that appear abnormal may confirm the presence of a cancerous tumor .
Treatment is aimed at destruction of the cancer and prevention of spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.
When the tumor is small, either surgery or radiation therapy alone can be used to eliminate the tumor.
Many patients also need swallowing therapy after treatment to help them adjust to the changes in their throat.
Support GroupsThe stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group .
Throat cancers can be cured in 90% of patients if detected early. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes in the neck 50-60% of patients can be cured. If the cancer has spread (metastasized) to parts of the body outside the head and neck, the cancer is not curable and treatment is aimed at prolonging quality of life.
After treatment patients generally need therapy to help with speech and swallowing. A small percentage of patients (5%) will not be able to swallow and will need to be fed through a feeding tube.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if symptoms indicate cancer of the throat, especially hoarseness or change in voice with no obvious cause that lasts longer than 1 week. Also call your health care provider if you find a lump in the neck that does not go away in 2-3 weeks.
PreventionMinimize or avoid smoking and excess alcohol use .
Update Date: 7/11/2002Ezra E.W. Cohen, M.D., Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT