Throat cancer can begin in the oesophagus, larynx, thyroid gland or cells lining the throat. The larynx is located at the top of the windpipe. Below the larynx is the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland, with its two lobes sitting on either side of the trachea. The thyroid glands regulate many metabolic processes, including development and energy spending.
The symptoms of throat cancer can include:
- A swelling or lump in the throat.
- A persistent cough.
- Blood-flecked phlegm.
- The sensation of something permanently stuck in the throat.
- Voice changes, such as persistent hoarseness or huskiness.
- Throat pain.
- Referred pain into the ears.
- Swallowing difficulties.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Swollen lymph glands.
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as excessive reflux, diarrhoea or constipation.
Surgery - the tumor is surgically removed. This may need the partial or entirety elimination of the thyroid, hankie or muscle, or the total larynx (laryngectomy) or tongue (glossectomy), depending on the location and size of the tumor. Nearby lymph glands may also need to be taken out if the cancer has spread to these.
Radiation therapy - small, precise doses of radiation target and destroy cancer cells.
Chemotherapy- the use of cancer-killing drugs, often in combination with radiotherapy. Chemotherapy can be helpful in controlling cancers that have spread because the whole body is treated
Multi-modality or adjuvant treatments - such as surgery followed by radiotherapy, or chemo-radiotherapy, especially in the case of large tumors.
Long term monitoring - this may include regular examinations and x-rays to make sure the cancer hasn't come back.
Rehabilitation therapy - this may include assistance from a dietitian, speech therapist and physiotherapist. Social workers, counselors and clinical psychologists can help patients come to terms with the post-operative changes to their finances, social and professional lives, and appearance.