Medicine is truly a miracle of the modern man. Yet, there are several challenges that medicine faces on a day-to-day basis. Among them, a big challenge is different illnesses sharing similar symptoms. For instance, a usual cough or sore throat might not be a big deal. They disappear without causing much trouble. Yet, sometimes these can be signs of something serious such as throat cancer.
Our throat is a crucial part of the respiratory system and oral system. It is a long muscular tube. It starts with the nose and ends with the neck. Throat cancer often starts with the surface cells lining inside our throat. Our voice box develops from cartilage. It comprises vocal cords that are used for us to talk. Our voice box lies just below the throat. As such, it is also vulnerable to this cancer.
Throat cancer usually occurs when the throat cells create genetic mutations. As a result, the cells grow uncontrollably. While the mutated cells continue living, the healthy cells die. These accumulating cells form throat cancer. The definite cause of these mutations is not clear yet. But doctors can identify the factors increasing the risk of cancer.
Throat Cancer Types
Throat cancer is of various types. It is a broad term applying to cancer developing in two different areas. These are the throat area and voice box. Throat cancer is generally differentiated based on its originating part.
- Nasopharyngeal Cancer, found in the past behind the nose.
- Oropharyngeal Cancer, found in the part behind the mouth, including the tonsils
- Hypopharyngeal Cancer, found in the lower throat area, above the windpipe
- Glottic Cancer, found in our vocal cords
- Supraglottic cancer, found above the voice box
- Subglottic cancer, found below the voice box and our vocal cords
Throat Cancer Occurrence in India
Throat cancer is categorized under head & neck cancer (HNC) type. Here are some statistics related to the occurrence of throat cancer in India:
- It is the sixth most common type of cancer worldwide. Of that, almost 57 percent of throat cancer patients are in India. Every year, India registers around 80,000 new throat cancer cases.
- This number is expected to double by 2030.
- Tobacco use is the major reason behind this disease. Tobacco has extensive social acceptance within the Indian communities.
- A recent Global Adult Tobacco (GAT) survey indicated 35 percent of adults are addicted to tobacco. Throat cancer risks are much higher among men compared to women. As such, men are more vulnerable to throat cancer than women.
- In India low-income groups are more affected by this disease, It is due to the wide acceptance and exposure to tobacco chewing. Insufficient availability of diagnostic tools is another reason for low reporting.
- HNC or throat cancer is curable if detected early. Yet, most of the identified cases are in advanced conditions. As such, chances of improvement or cure are limited.
- Limited awareness is another reason for late treatment. Myths and stigma related to cancer are also contributory factors.
- As a result, the incidence of throat cancer in India is very high. Lack of proper treatment and awareness increases mortality.
Several factors increase our throat cancer risks. These are:
- Using tobacco, including chewing and smoking
- Excessive alcohol drinking
- Viral infections such as Epstein-Barr and HPV
- A diet without vegetables and fruits
- Toxic substance exposure at work
When to see a Doctor?
A yearly check-up would be ideal. A doctor appointment is a must in case of any new symptoms or signs. If the signs are persistent, contact your doctor immediately. Most of the symptoms are common and not cancer-specific. As such, the more common causes will be investigated first. Throat cancer diagnosis includes scope, tissue sampling, or imaging tests. It is essential to understand the symptoms of throat cancer. The major symptoms are:
- A persistent cough or sore throat
- Lump within nose, throat, or the neck
- Voice chances
- Ear pain
- Nose bleeds
- Trouble swallowing
- Trouble speaking or breathing
- Ear ringing, pain
- Weight loss
- Breastbone pain
5 Unknown Facts about Throat Cancer
The topic of cancer is itself difficult to talk about. Both stigma and fear associated with cancer prevent its diagnosis and treatment. Yet, it is important to talk about it. Here are five unknown facts about throat cancer:
- Location of the throat cancer
Oral, neck, and head cancer forms in the location where alcohol and/or tobacco has made the most contact. This means the area where a cigarette sits, where tobacco is chewed inside the mouth.
- Your workplace can be a factor
Your work environment can increase your risk of developing throat cancer. Is your workplace being full of glues, dust, mustard gas, formaldehyde, or heavy metals? Then your chances of developing sinus or nose cancer are very high.
- Regular screening can help
Avoid alcohol and tobacco products to reduce the risk of throat cancer. It is recommended to get an annual screening by a dentist or medical specialist. This includes examining soft tissues around the neck, head, and interior of your mouth. Better safe than sorry!
- Getting vaccination can reduce risks
Getting vaccination against HPV can reduce risks. This vaccination is recommended for kids between 9 and 12-year-olds. The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine. Older people might need more doses.
- Your throat cancer treatment will be multidisciplinary
Treatment for throat cancer will need a multidisciplinary approach. Apart from oncosurgeons, the team will include a supportive team. It comprises speech pathologists, nutritionists, oral medicine specialists, pain management experts, psychiatrists, and social workers.
Prevention is better than cure. Reduce the chances of developing cancer by avoiding alcohol and tobacco products. Also, get an annual screening by the dentist and medical doctor. Lack of awareness, stigma, and fear are the main reasons for increased mortality. It is also important to choose the best care for quick recovery. Medica Superspecialty Hospital uses advanced equipment and technologies for throat management. This includes targeted therapies and working with multidisciplinary teams. This integrative approach ensures that patients have all the support, expertise, and information needed at every step of their treatment and recovery.