Throat Cancer

The general term throat cancer refers to any cancer that occurs in the throat (pharyngeal or voice box cancer).

Throat Cancer

The general term throat cancer refers to any cancer that occurs in the throat (pharyngeal or voice box cancer).

What is Throat Cancer?

Throat cancer is a form of cancer that occurs in the voice box (larynx) or your throat (pharynx).

The throat and voice box begin on the back part of your tongue and extend to the top of the esophagus or swallowing pipe. 

The voice box is in front of the throat. The lining of all of these structures are at risk of developing cancer.

Symptoms Of Throat Cancer

Symptoms and signs of throat cancer include:

  • A cough
  • Changes in voice such as hoarseness, or difficulty speaking clearly
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • A sore or lump that won’t heal
  • Sore throat
  • Weight loss


Types of Throat Cancer

Although most throat cancers involve the same types of cells as other forms, there are specific terms that can be used to distinguish the area of the throat where the cancer began.

  • The nasopharynx is the area of your throat that lies just below your nose.
  • Oropharyngeal Cancer is found in the oropharynx, the area of your throat just behind your mouth that includes the tonsils
  • Hypopharyngeal Cancer (laryngopharyngeal carcinoma) starts in the hypopharynx
  • Glottic carcinoma starts in the vocal cords
  • Supraglottic carcinoma starts in the upper part of the voicebox and includes cancers that affect the epiglottis (a piece of cartilage that prevents food from entering your windpipe)
  • Subglottic Cancer starts in the lower part of your voicebox, below your vocal cords

Causes of Throat Cancer

When cells in the throat develop genetic mutations, it is called throat cancer. These mutations can cause cells to grow out of control and live on after normal cells die. A tumor can grow in your throat from the accumulation of these cells.

It is not known what causes throat cancer. However, doctors have identified risk factors.

These factors can increase your chances of developing throat cancer:

  • Tobacco use includes smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Viral infections include the Epstein-Barr virus and human papillomavirus.
  • A diet devoid of fruits and vegetables
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
  • Workplace exposure to toxic substances

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