Throat Cancer Treatment
Throat cancer will not go away on its own, but treatment can increase your throat cancer survival rate. The goal of any throat cancer treatment is to entirely remove the cancer and prevent it from spreading. Depending on the stage and location of your cancer, you and your doctor may choose any combination of treatments:
- Radiation Therapy -- Often the first type of treatment used, radiation uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation may be the only treatment needed for early stages of throat cancer, or it may be used in combination with other treatments to treat more aggressive cancers.
- Chemotherapy -- Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is more often used to treat advanced stages of throat cancer.
- Surgery -- There are several types of surgery available for throat cancer treatment:
- Endoscopy: Primarily used to treat the early stages of throat cancer, a laser or surgical tool is used to remove the cancerous surface layer of tissue.
- Laryngectomy: The most common surgery for throat cancer, a laryngectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of the larynx.
- Pharyngectomy: All or part of pharynx is removed surgically.
- Cordectomy: This is the removal of one or both vocal cords.
- Neck Dissection: If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (glands), they might be removed. The goal of a neck dissection is to contain throat cancer before it spreads to the body.
As with any cancer treatment, complications can be expected. Treatments used to destroy cancer cells will often destroy healthy cells too. Hair loss, fatigue and nausea are common side effects of throat cancer treatment. Other complications include problems with speaking, swallowing and scarring, and rehabilitation may be needed to improve speech. Removing even part of the larynx may cause voice damage, but the less tissue that is removed, the less damage is likely. Throat reconstruction is also a possibility after surgery.
While throat cancer symptoms can affect anyone at any time, there are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of a positive diagnosis. The following factors can increase your risk of developing throat cancer:
- Drinking alcohol
- Poor oral hygiene
- Diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
- Living with HPV
- Exposure to asbestos, sulfuric acid or nickel
- Gender (men are more at risk)
- Age (being over the age of 55 increases risk)
- A history of previous oral cancer or cancer in your family
If you fall into any of these categories and notice any symptoms of throat cancer, contact your doctor right away.
While some cases of throat cancer are inevitable, many are preventable. Taking the following measures can decrease your risk of developing throat cancer:
Don't smoke. Not only does it cause cancer, but smoking makes treatment less effective and healing difficult. Smoking also increases your chances of cancer returning.
Cut back on alcohol. Drink in moderation. That means no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
Eat healthy. Studies suggest that the vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help prevent cancer.
Beware of chemicals. Breathing in hazardous chemical fumes can increase your risk of developing throat cancer. If you work with chemicals, wear a mask and properly ventilate the room.
Now you have even an even better reason to visit your dentist regularly! Due to their close proximity to the area, dentists are often the first to spot symptoms of throat cancer. If throat cancer symptoms are spotted, he or she should refer you to your doctor for treatment.
Schedule your oral cancer exam