Learn About Throat Cancer

What is the definition of Throat Cancer?

Throat cancer is cancer of the vocal cords, larynx (voice box), or other areas of the throat.

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What are the alternative names for Throat Cancer?

Vocal cord cancer; Throat cancer; Laryngeal cancer; Cancer of the glottis; Cancer of oropharynx or hypopharynx; Cancer of the tonsils; Cancer of the base of the tongue

What are the causes of Throat Cancer?

People who smoke or use tobacco are at risk of developing throat cancer. Drinking too much alcohol over a long time also increases risk. Smoking and drinking alcohol combined lead to an increased risk for throat cancer.

Most throat cancers develop in adults older than 50. Men are more likely than women to develop throat cancer.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (the same virus that causes genital warts) account for a larger number of oral and throat cancers than in the past. One type of HPV, type 16 or HPV-16, is much more commonly associated with almost all throat cancers.

What are the symptoms of Throat Cancer?

Symptoms of throat cancer include any of the following:

  • Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness that does not get better in 3 to 4 weeks
  • Neck or ear pain
  • Sore throat that does not get better in 2 to 3 weeks, even with antibiotics
  • Swelling or lumps in the neck
  • Weight loss not due to dieting
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What are the current treatments for Throat Cancer?

The goal of treatment is to completely remove the cancer and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.

When the tumor is small, either surgery or radiation therapy alone can be used to remove the tumor.

When the tumor is larger or has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, a combination of radiation and chemotherapy is often used to save the voice box (vocal cords). If this is not possible, the voice box is removed. This surgery is called a laryngectomy.

Depending on what type of treatment you require, supportive treatments that may be needed include:

  • Speech therapy.
  • Therapy to help with chewing and swallowing.
  • Learning to eat enough protein and calories to keep your weight up. Ask your provider about liquid food supplements that can help.
  • Help with dry mouth.
Who are the top Throat Cancer Local Doctors?
Elite
Highly rated in
30
conditions
Otolaryngology

Perelman Center For Advanced Medicine

Philadelphia, PA 

Gregory Weinstein is an Otolaryngologist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Weinstein has been practicing medicine for over 37 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Throat Cancer. He is also highly rated in 30 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Throat Cancer, Laryngeal Cancer, Tongue Cancer, and Salivary Gland Tumors. He is board certified in Otolaryngology and licensed to treat patients in Pennsylvania. Dr. Weinstein is currently accepting new patients.

Elite
Highly rated in
23
conditions
Otolaryngology

The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Baltimore, MD 

Christine Gourin is an Otolaryngologist in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Gourin has been practicing medicine for over 32 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Throat Cancer. She is also highly rated in 23 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Laryngeal Cancer, Throat Cancer, Laryngectomy, and Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma. She is board certified in Otolaryngology and licensed to treat patients in Maryland and Georgia. Dr. Gourin is currently accepting new patients.

 
 
 
 
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Elite
Highly rated in
56
conditions
Radiation Oncology

UF Health Radiation Oncology Davis Cancer Pavilion

Gainesville, FL 

W Mendenhall is a Radiation Oncologist in Gainesville, Florida. Dr. Mendenhall has been practicing medicine for over 44 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Throat Cancer. He is also highly rated in 56 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Squamous Cell Skin Carcinoma, Throat Cancer, Laryngeal Cancer, and Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma. He is board certified in Radiation Oncology and licensed to treat patients in Florida. Dr. Mendenhall is currently accepting new patients.

What are the support groups for Throat Cancer?

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Throat Cancer?

Throat cancers may be cured when detected early. If the cancer has not spread (metastasized) to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes in the neck, about one half of patients can be cured. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and parts of the body outside the head and neck, the cancer is not curable. Treatment is aimed at prolonging and improving quality of life.

It is possible but not fully proven that cancers which test positive for HPV may have better outlooks. Also, people who smoked for less than 10 years may do better.

After treatment, therapy is needed to help with speech and swallowing. If the person is not able to swallow, a feeding tube will be needed.

The recurrence risk in throat cancer is highest during the first 2 to 3 years of diagnosis.

Regular follow-up after the diagnosis and treatment is very important to increase the chances of survival.

What are the possible complications of Throat Cancer?

Complications of this type of cancer may include:

  • Airway obstruction
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Disfigurement of the neck or face
  • Hardening of the skin of the neck
  • Loss of voice and speaking ability
  • Spread of the cancer to other body areas (metastasis)
When should I contact a medical professional for Throat Cancer?

Call your provider if:

  • You have symptoms of throat cancer, especially hoarseness or a change in voice with no obvious cause that lasts longer than 3 weeks
  • You find a lump in your neck that does not go away in 3 weeks
How do I prevent Throat Cancer?

Do not smoke or use other tobacco. Limit or avoid alcohol use.

HPV vaccines recommended for children and young adults target HPV subtypes most likely to cause some head and neck cancers. They have been shown to prevent most oral HPV infections. It is not clear yet whether they also are able to prevent throat or larynx cancers.

Throat anatomy
Oropharynx
What are the latest Throat Cancer Clinical Trials?
A Phase II/III Trial of Chemotherapy + Cetuximab vs Chemotherapy + Bevacizumab vs Atezolizumab + Bevacizumab Following Progression on Immune Checkpoint Inhibition in Recurrent/Metastatic Head and Neck Cancers
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A Phase I CyberKnife Accelerated Hemilarynx Stereotactic Radiotherapy Study for Early-stage Glottic Larynx Cancer
What are the Latest Advances for Throat Cancer?
SBRT after Conventional IMRT in Locally Advanced/Recurrent Head and Neck (HN) Cancers: Importance of Patient Selection.
Long-term Therapeutic and Functional Outcomes With Organ Preservation for T4 Larynx and Hypopharynx Cancers.
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Survival Outcomes for Patients With T3N0M0 Glottic Cancer of the Larynx Treated With Radiation Alone vs. Chemoradiation.
What are our references for Throat Cancer?

Armstrong WB, Vokes DE, Tjoa T, Verma SP. Malignant tumors of the larynx. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 105.

Garden AS, Morrison WH. Larynx and hypopharynx cancer. In: Tepper JE, Foote RL, Michalski JM, eds. Gunderson & Tepper's Clinical Radiation Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 41.

Lorenz RR, Couch ME, Burkey BB. Head and neck. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 33.

National Cancer Institute website. Nasopharyngeal cancer treatment (adult) (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/adult/nasopharyngeal-treatment-pdq. Updated August 30, 2019. Accessed February 12, 2021.

Rettig E, Gourin CG, Fakhry C. Human papillomavirus and the epidemiology of head and neck cancer. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 74.