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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Throat cancer - Symptoms to watch for!

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Dr. Subhash Chandra ChananaOncologist • 54 Years Exp.FACS, MBBS, MS - General Surgery
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Throat cancer is a broad term used to cover cancer across a number of organs in the oronasal passage – right from the nasopharynx, oropharynx, glottis, epiglottis to supraglottis. Minus the medical terms, it means anywhere from the back of the nose and throat to the where the neck ends. The mucous cells along this path can undergo changes and begin multiplying rapidly, leading to cancer. The following are some additional risk factors:

Cigarette smoking is the most important of all, and a person can significantly reduce the risk by cutting down smoking. The throat has different types of linings and gland tissue, and depending on the cell type affected, the type of cancer could vary.

Symptoms: Throat cancer diagnosis can get delayed as the symptoms are very similar to a throat infection.

  1. Sore throat: A sore throat that lasts for weeks together is often a cause for concern and requires ruling out underlying serious problem. Having associated risk factors is a good way to see if ruling out cancer is needed.
  2. Cough: A cough that does not go away is a cause for concern. This is often associated with other symptoms mentioned here.
  3. Voice change: Usually hoarseness of the voice, which is painless and not accompanied by a throat infection, is an indication of throat cancer.
  4. Difficulty swallowing or breathing: Depending on where the cancer is located, there could be problems in either free breathing or swallowing. The developing mass gets in the way of free air and/or food movement.
  5. Lumpy feeling in the throat: If the developing mass is along the length of the throat, then there could be a lumpy feeling, as if something is caught in the throat and not going down.
  6. Bleeding: There could be bleeding either through the nose or the mouth, depending on the place of the cancer. Again, this is one of the late symptoms and not seen in the beginning.
  7. Unexplained weight loss: As with any cancer, throat cancer also leads to unexplained weight loss.

Depending on the area affected, the symptoms can point to the location. For instance, voice changes are often associated with laryngeal cancer. A combination of risk factor assessment and symptoms will help in pinning down the diagnosis. Reach out to the doctor as soon as you notice something is wrong, as early diagnosis is very good for timely intervention and improving prognosis. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!


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