Throat Cancer Treatments

Laryngeal cancer or “throat cancer” is a preventable disease because the risk factors associated with laryngeal cancers are all modifiable behaviors. The majority (90%) of head and neck cancers result after an exposure to a carcinogen (cancer causing substance) resulting in squamous cell carcinoma (SCCA).

Risk Factors:

  • Smoking: more than 95% of people with laryngeal SCCA are or were smokers
  • Alcohol: has a synergistic effect with smoking in causing SCCA. It does not simply add to the smoking risk, it multiplies it.
  • Other
    • Viruses, human papilloma virus (HPV)
    • Gastroesophageal reflux
    • Occupational exposures, asbestos

Signs and Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer:

  • Progressive or persistent hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent sore throat or pain with swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the ear
  • Lump in the neck
  • Unintentional weight loss

Anyone with these signs or symptoms, and having risks for laryngeal cancer, should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist).

Treatment of Laryngeal Cancer

The best treatment is prevention. Avoiding the risk factors, even second hand smoke is the best measure.

A thorough head and neck evaluation in the office is done first. A tissue diagnosis obtained in the operating room is needed. Very early cancers confined to the vocal cord surface can occasionally be treated with an excisional biopsy (removal of the entire lesion at the time of biopsy). Usually a thorough surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments is needed.

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