If you’ve been diagnosed with throat cancer or are concerned you may have it, it’s easy to feel worried and overwhelmed. But you don’t have to navigate this process by yourself. At Alpine Ear, Nose & Throat, we can guide you through the next steps while ensuring that you receive the highest quality treatment.
What Are the Different Types of Throat Cancers?
Throat cancers are classified based on where they are located.
- Oral cavity cancer involves the lips, tongue, the floor of the mouth, the hard and soft palates or the gums.
- Laryngeal cancer involves the voice box.
- Pharyngeal cancer involves any part of the throat except for the voice box.
- Salivary gland cancer involves the salivary glands.
What Causes Throat Cancer?
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol use
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux
- Viral infections, including human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus
What Does Throat Cancer Feel Like?
If you experience the following symptoms, you may have throat cancer:
- Chronic cough
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain in the ear or throat
- A scratchy voice or an inability to speak clearly
- Weight loss
Can I Check for Throat Cancer at Home?
To perform a self-exam for throat cancer, check your neck for lumps, and look at your lips, cheeks, gums and inside of your mouth. Keep an eye out for a red or white patch in your mouth. If you find anything abnormal that lasts longer than two weeks, contact your doctor.
Because there are signs of neck cancer that cannot be detected by a self-exam, it’s important to seek medical attention if you have any symptoms.
How Does an ENT Diagnose Throat Cancer?
If you’re concerned about throat cancer, our provider will ask you about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, how long they’ve lasted and the impact they’ve had on your daily life.
Additional diagnostic exams done during the appointment include:
- An endoscopy, which involves using a lighted scope to examine your throat.
- A laryngoscopy, during which a scope is used to examine your voice box.
- Taking a biopsy of tissue for testing.
- Imaging tests, such as a CT scan, MRI or PET scan.
How Is Throat Cancer Treated?
Our otolaryngologist will determine what procedure will best serve your individual needs. They’ll also work with you to ensure that you understand your condition, answering questions that you might have and providing support as you enter this transitional time.
The next steps will depend on the tumor’s size, location and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Potential options include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, with the most effective surgical procedures depending on the location and stage of your cancer.
For small tumors or throat cancers that haven’t spread to the lymph nodes, radiation might be the only treatment needed. In more advanced cases, it may be combined with other treatments. Following treatment, you may need speech therapy or swallowing therapy, depending on which procedures are performed.
Cancer treatment can be a stressful time, but it doesn’t have to make you feel isolated. Our team will be here to guide you through the process as you navigate treatment and recovery along your healthcare journey.