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What Is Throat Cancer?

Trouble breathing and swallowing may be symptoms of throat cancer.
Throat cancer may develop in the tonsils.
The frequent use of tobacco products may lead to throat cancer.
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
Asbestos exposure increases the risk of throat cancer.
Article Details
  • Written By: Lauren Romano
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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Throat cancer is when tumors develop in the voice box, the tonsils or in the throat itself. There can be several risk factors, including smoking, heavy drinking and using chewing tobacco. Knowing the various aspects of throat cancer, from the symptoms to the treatment, can help for an understanding of the condition.

One of the areas affected by throat cancer is the voice box, which contains the vocal cords and is comprised of cartilage. The tonsils, which are found at the back of the throat, can also be affected by tonsil cancer, which is a form of throat cancer. The final area that can be affected is the throat itself, which is a muscular tube 5 inches (12.7 cm) long that stretches down to the end of the neck from the nose.

There are quite a few risk factors that can increase the chances of developing throat cancer. Using substances such as chewing tobacco and smoking as well as drinking heavily can be just some of the risk factors. Others include being exposed to asbestos, not practicing good dental hygiene and having HPV, also known as human papillomavirus. To eliminate or severely reduce risk factors, it can be advantageous to quit chewing tobacco and smoking and severely reducing alcohol intake. It can also help to develop better dental hygiene as well as get regular checkups at the dentist.

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Some of the many symptoms of throat cancer include ear pain, a persistent sore throat, and difficulty swallowing. A lump in the back of the neck, mouth and throat can also be a sign. Keep track of symptoms, even ones that seem insignificant, and if they persist, see a doctor. If there is a lump detected, it's vital to immediately go to the doctor to get it checked.

To check for throat cancer, X-rays will need to be taken as well as a laryngoscopy or an endoscopy. These are tests that allow the doctor to get a better look at the throat, especially the affected area. Several factors will come into play to help the doctor determine the next course of action. Two of the options possible are radiation or surgery, however, a combination of both is also possible.

It's important to choose a doctor who you feel comfortable with and who takes the time to answer any and all questions. Following the directions of the doctor, as well as staying informed through self-education, can help when going through the process. Throat cancer, although scary and difficult, may seem a bit less frightening when there is a good understanding of each step that will happen as well as having a good medical team and support system to rely on.

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