Stage Four throat cancer is the most severe stage of this disease. It indicates that cancerous cells have spread from the throat to nearby areas, such as the mouth, lymph nodes and lips. The result is often facial disfigurement, and the prognosis is typically poor compared to Stage One. There are, however, some treatment options to prolong life, including the removal of the larynx or pharynx. Some patients also benefit from radiation and chemotherapy to kill any cancerous cells that remain.
Throat cancer is often easily treated when caught early, but the existence of few symptoms during the early stages means it usually is not diagnosed until it has already spread. Some of the early symptoms of throat cancer include a hoarse voice, constant sore throat, and the persistent feeling of a lump in the throat. Of course, these symptoms also often occur with other conditions, so few patients rush to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment. In fact, the majority of patients are not diagnosed until they have Stage Four throat cancer, at which point it has already spread from the throat. By this stage, the symptoms include the complete inability to speak, difficulty breathing and swollen lymph nodes.
Treatment throat cancer that's progressed to stage four usually consists of trying to get rid of the cancerous cells, such as through a pharyngectomy if the cancerous cells are found in the pharynx. Removal of the larynx, or a laryngectomy, may also be required. These surgeries are often followed by rehabilitation to teach the patient how to breathe and speak without the larynx or pharynx. In more severe cases, cancerous cells may be found in the lymph nodes, which means the doctor may try to surgically remove the cells. This is usually followed up with chemotherapy and radiation to kill any cancerous cells that remain.
Only a small percentage of patients with Stage Four throat cancer survive past five years. Those who choose not to get treatment may survive for a much shorter period of time, though patients are advised to followed their doctor's recommendations regarding the type of treatment to undergo. Younger patients who are generally healthy tend to survive Stage Four throat cancer the longest, because they usually respond best to treatment, though the size of the tumor also plays a role in life expectancy. It should be noted that, even if treatment gets rid of the cancer, it may recur years or even mere months later.