It’s not possible to self-diagnose cancer. But you may worry about it; you wouldn’t be the first to lose some sleep considering whether your sore throat is due to allergies or something more serious.
Your symptoms can only be correctly diagnosed by your doctor. You need to schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you think you may be developing the early symptoms of throat cancer.
Throat cancer, what is it?
Throat cancer is something of a general term that describes a collection of cancers that can develop in various areas of your throat.
There are some similarities between some of these cancers. There are thin, flat cells that line your throat called squamous cells. These cells are frequently the starting place of throat cancer and are generally known as squamous cell carcinoma.
There are two forms of these cancers:
- Pharyngeal cancer: Your pharynx, which is the tissue behind your nose and mouth into your throat, is where these kinds of cancer begin to develop.
- Laryngeal cancer: This kind is not as common. It’s a cancer of your voice box or larynx.
Pharyngeal cancer comes in three primary types
Depending on the location, pharyngeal cancer is divided into three types:
Hypopharyngeal: This type of cancer starts in the bottom of the throat.
Oropharyngeal: As the syllable “oro” may imply, oropharyngeal cancer starts in the middle of the throat, including behind the tongue and some of the roof of your mouth. This type of pharyngeal cancer is the most prevalent.
Nasopharyngeal: The top of your throat just behind the nose is where this cancer developes.
What are the symptoms of throat cancer?
The main difference between these cancers can only be sorted out by your doctor who will also be able to formulate treatment solutions and prognosis. But you may be wondering how symptoms appear and what they might disclose, especially if you’re at the point where you’re considering scheduling an appointment. The possible symptoms of throat cancer may include:
- Chronic ear infections.
- Hearing loss in one ear.
- Sore throat, especially if it’s persistent.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
- Persistent trouble swallowing.
- A lump in your neck.
- White or red spots in your throat.
- Hoarse voice, particularly if it’s chronic.
- Pain behind your nose or in your throat.
- Tinnitus in one ear.
Throat cancer risk factors
Unfortunately, there’s nothing in these symptoms that is altogether exclusive to throat cancer.
Hearing loss and tinnitus, for instance, are extremely common symptoms of ailments that have no relation to cancer.
So as you’re giving thought to symptoms, it’s really beneficial to consider risk factors. The following can drastically increase your risk of developing throat cancer:
- Malnutrition or inadequate nutrition.
- Smoking tobacco or using chewing tobacco: Throat cancer (and other cancers) have been associated with these activities.
- Acid reflux, or a form of acid reflux known as GERD.
- HPV (human papillomavirus) infections.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
The occurrence of these risk factors or a family background of throat cancer can be a strong indication that you should get an exam.
Diagnosing throat cancer
Physicians might use one of numerous approaches to help diagnose a possible throat cancer. Everything from a biopsy to an X-ray or CT scan can be used on questionable tissue. In some cases, we need to get a better look in your throat so an endoscopy will be done. (General anesthesia is sometimes utilized when an endoscopy is necessary.)
We will be able to determine what tests and diagnostics are needed, if any, in your situation.
What happens after diagnosis?
What occurs after the diagnosis will depend substantially on what we find. Tissue that you thought was questionable, in many cases, will turn out to be benign. But in other cases, something more serious might be found.
Early detection is crucial if it turns out that you’re experiencing throat cancer. Some types of throat cancer have a relatively good 5-year survival rate, so getting treated can save your life.
But the chance of a positive outcome increases the earlier your cancer is detected. So if you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing throat cancer symptoms, make an appointment as soon as you can.