How Do You Know If You Have Throat Cancer – 11.-17. April 2021 mouth, head and neck cancer week. We feel you need a month for this important topic. The Ear, Nose and Throat Center will be providing information on oral, head and neck cancer awareness during the month of April.
Head and neck tumors are the first to be discovered by otolaryngologists. Although laryngeal or head and neck cancer is the most commonly used term, doctors may also refer to the affected anatomical structure (pharynx, larynx, tongue, etc.). Cancer can develop when there are genetic mutations in the cells of the throat that accumulate. People who regularly use alcohol and tobacco have a higher risk of developing throat cancer. In the last decade, human papillomavirus (HPV) exposure has become the most important risk factor for head and neck cancer. Other factors include not eating enough fruits and vegetables and GERD.
How Do You Know If You Have Throat Cancer
It is important to note that many of the following symptoms can be caused by non-cancerous conditions, such as a cold or sinus infection. Our otolaryngologists can help you determine the exact cause of your problems.
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If you experience any of the symptoms described above, schedule an appointment today so we can determine the root cause and create a treatment plan. Book an appointment at the Ear, Nose and Throat Center today. Call 847-685-1000
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The doctor and staff were all kind and professional. I saw them within the first five minutes of their appearance. I received quality help and my concerns were resolved. Most people diagnosed with throat cancer don’t see anything unusual when they look in the mirror, open their mouths, and say, “Ahhhh.”
“That’s because there’s usually not much to see,” says head and neck surgeon Miriam Lango, M.D. “These tumors are often buried deep in the throat or hidden beneath the surface of the tissue. Throat cancer is also usually quite small and very difficult to see even by trained experts. So only 20-30% of patients notice anything visible.
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If throat cancer is visible to the naked eye, here are some of its characteristics:
Throat cancer is usually found in the oropharynx, which includes the tonsils, uvula (a small structure that hangs in the middle), the soft palate, and the back of the tongue, which cannot be seen without a scope. But they can also develop in the larynx (loud voice) and nasopharynx (behind the nose).
The most common symptom of throat cancer is actually a painless lump on the side of the neck.
“Usually it doesn’t hurt,” notes Lango. “But it’s been there longer than it should be, it’s only on one side, and it’s too big to be a swollen lymph node.”
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Rarely, patients may report a sore throat or difficulty swallowing. But most have no symptoms at all and are very surprised to hear they have throat cancer.
Almost all throat cancers seen by doctors at MD Anderson are squamous cell carcinomas. About 80% of these are caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, although the number may be lower in other hospitals.
“I can’t even remember the last time I saw a throat cancer that wasn’t HPV positive,” says Lango. “Before 2000, we almost never saw it. Now we see a lot. It’s really an epidemic.”
Therefore, Lango encourages everyone in the age group 9-26 to get vaccinated against HPV. The HPV vaccine is most effective at 11-12 years of age. However, unvaccinated men and women between the ages of 27 and 45 should talk to their doctor about the benefits of vaccination.
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“The number of throat cancers caused by smoking has dramatically decreased over the past 20 years,” notes Lango. “Part of this is because people don’t smoke as much as they used to. But if we could vaccinate more young people against HPV now, it would really go a long way in reducing the incidence of throat cancer in the future.
Whether your throat cancer is HPV-related or not, it’s important to seek treatment at a comprehensive cancer center like MD Anderson.
“A lot of people go with the first thing that’s offered and don’t realize there are other options,” says Lango. “That’s why it’s crucial to get at least one second opinion.”
One reason for this is that many patients live for years after being diagnosed with throat cancer. This means they have to live with the side effects of the treatment for decades, such as dry mouth or difficulty swallowing.
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“Both problems can affect your quality of life and your enjoyment of food,” says Lango. “So it really pays to make sure you’re getting the right treatment.”
In early-stage throat cancer, only surgery is necessary. In advanced cases, patients will likely be offered a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation therapy.
“Everyone had chemotherapy and radiation before,” notes Lango. “But transoral robotic surgery (TORS) has become a very effective tool in treating some patients. The survival rate is just phenomenal.
It is also possible to reduce the intensity of treatment and potentially reduce long-term side effects by participating in “de-escalation” clinical trials. Studies may include immunotherapy or highly focused proton therapy.
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“Some treatments are in clinical trials because they show promise but are not yet the standard of care,” says Lango. “But the response of some of our patients has been very good. So the way we treat patients now may not be the same in a few years. And classical chemotherapy has been the mainstay of laryngeal cancer treatment for so long that its absence is a big problem. The medical review was written by Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI – Ana Gotter – Updated November 6, 2018
Tonsils are oval-shaped organs located at the back of the throat. They help protect the body from microbial infections. Holes in the tonsils or tonsil crypts increase the risk of infection or tonsil stones.
Holes in the tonsils are a normal part of the anatomy. They give the immune system an early idea of what your body is taking in orally. Sometimes the tonsils can become swollen and the crypts blocked due to inflammation or scarring from another medical condition.
Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils. It is most often caused by viral infections. Bacterial infections can also be the culprit. This condition is especially common in school-aged children and those who work with them.
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Mononucleosis is often called the “mono” or “kissing disease.” Mononucleosis is a virus that spreads through saliva. This condition can cause swelling of the tonsils and lead to blockage of the tonsil crypts.
Strep throat is a highly contagious infection caused by streptococcus. It is very common among school-aged children. To prevent complications such as nephritis or rheumatic fever, strep throat should be treated as soon as possible.
The symptom that sends most people to the doctor is a persistent scratchy sore throat that often comes on quickly. Some people have red tonsils that are swollen and have white spots or streaks of pus.
Poor oral hygiene can be a breeding ground for bacteria that cause infections and tonsillitis. If you don’t do a good enough job of keeping your mouth clean and free of harmful bacteria, your tonsil crypts are more likely to fill up with bacteria. This can cause the tonsils to become swollen, inflamed, and infected.
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Other signs of poor oral hygiene often include frequent bad breath, plaque build-up or coating on the tongue or teeth, and frequent cavities.
Brush and floss at least twice a day and keep your mouth clean with mouthwash.
Tonsil stones (or tonsils) occur when debris gets lodged in the pit of the tonsils and turns into a white “stone”. These stones can grow. They can also cause further infection of the tonsils, which worsens the tonsil holes.
Smoking and vaping deplete the immune system while causing inflammation. This makes you susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections and tonsillitis.
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Smoking is also associated with tonsil stones, which can make holes in the tonsils larger and more problematic.
Oral cancer spreading to the tonsils and cancer of the tonsils are both associated with pits in the tonsils. Sometimes the cancer gets stuck because an ulcer develops in the back of the mouth that won’t heal.
If your tonsils become infected, treatment will depend on what caused the infection. Some infections do not require treatment unless they cause further problems. Some conditions require treatment, including:
If holes in the tonsils or their side effects, including tonsil stones or infection, are too common, your doctor may recommend surgical removal. It’s not as common as it used to be, but it still has a short cooldown
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