Head & Neck Conditions
The throat consists of the pharynx - the area behind the mouth and nasal cavity - and the larynx - your voice box. An important feature of the throat is the epiglottis, which is a flap separating the esophagus from the trachea (windpipe). The epiglottis closes when you eat or drink to prevent inhalation of food or liquids.
The throat also contains blood vessels, pharynx muscles, the trachea and esophagus. The only bones in the throat area are the hyoid bone under your chin and clavicle (collar) bone.
About Throat Cancer
Cancer that occurs in the larynx and pharynx − which includes the base of the tongue and tonsils − is commonly called throat cancer. Throat cancer often develops from squamous cells (flat, thin, scale-like cells) on the moist tissue lining the larynx, pharynx or mouth.
Throat cancer usually develops in adults over 50.1 Men are 10 times more likely than women to develop the disease.1 Worldwide, there are about 290,000 cases of throat cancer diagnosed each year.2 An examination of the neck and throat may show the presence of the cancer.
Causes & Risk Factors of Throat Cancer
Different cancers have different causes, and specific risk factors may increase your chances of developing cancer. It is important to know the risk factors of cancer so appropriate action can be taken such as changing a behavior or being monitored closely for a potential cancer. But, people with one or more risk factors may never develop the disease, while others diagnosed with throat cancer may have no known risk factors.
Risk factors of throat cancer include:
- Alcohol and tobacco use3
- Male gender1
- Old age1
- Contracting HPV (human papillomavirus)4
Symptoms of Throat Cancer
While symptoms may be a sign of some other condition, It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of throat cancer since it is highly curable when found early.1 Common symptoms of throat cancer may include:1
- Sputum (coughed-up mucus) may be bloody
- Lump may appear on the outside of the neck
- Abnormal-sounding breathing
- Chronic cough
- Neck pain or swelling
- Difficulty swallowing
- Throat pain
Screening & Testing
Screening tests are often used because they can be helpful in finding cancers early and decreasing the chance of dying from cancer.5 There is no standard or routine screening test for throat cancer. Screening may be done during a regular check-up by your dentist or doctor. The exam will include looking for lesions and white or red patches of cells that have the potential of becoming cancerous.
Stages of Throat Cancer
Staging is the process of finding out how far a cancer has spread. The outlook (prognosis) for people with cancer depends, to a large extent, on the cancer's stage and is one of the most important factors in choosing treatment. Staging is based on information about how cancer initially develops, grows and/or spreads. Staging information is based on the results of the physical exam, endoscopy, and imaging tests (CT scan, MRI, chest x-ray, and/or PET scans).
Treatment Options for Throat Cancer
After a diagnosis is made and the stage (extent) of the cancer determined, your doctor will suggest treatment options. The goal of treatment is to remove the cancer and prevent it from spreading. Treatment options for throat cancer may include:
- Open surgery
- Transoral surgery
- da Vinci® Surgery
da Vinci® Surgery for Throat Cancer
If your doctor recommends surgery to treat throat cancer, you may be a candidate for minimally invasive da Vinci Transoral Surgery. Using the most advanced technology available, the da Vinci System enables your doctor to perform this delicate operation for early-to-moderate stages of throat cancer.
The da Vinci System has been used successfully worldwide in hundreds of thousands of procedures to date. By helping doctors to overcome the challenges of traditional surgery, da Vinci is changing the experience of surgery for people around the world.
If you’ve been told you need surgery to treat throat cancer, ask your doctor about da Vinci Surgery.
- National Institutes of Health; Cancer- throat or larynx; Available from: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001042.htm.
- A Cancer Journal for Clinicians; American Cancer Society; Global Cancer Statistics, 2002. Available from: www.caonline.amcancersoc.org.
- American Cancer Society, Smokeless Tobacco and How to Quit. Available from: www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_13X_Quitting_Smokeless_Tobacco.asp?sitearea=PED.
- American Cancer Society, HPV a Risk Factor for Oropharyngeal Cancer. Available from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/hpv-oropharyngeal-cancer0507.
- National Cancer Institute, Oral Cancer Screening. Available from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/screening/oral/Patient/page3/print.
- Weinstein GS,O’Malley Jr BS, Desai SC, Quon H; Transoral robotic surgery: does the ends justify the means? Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery;17:126–131, 2009.
- O’Malley Jr. B, Weinstein GS, Snyder W, Hockstein, NG. Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for base tongue neoplasms. Laryngoscope 116: August 2006.
- Weinstein GS, O’Malley Jr. BW, Synder W, Sherman E, Quon H; Transoral robotic surgery, radical tonsillectomy. Arch Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg, Dec 2007; 133 (12).
- Boudreaux BA, Rosenthal EL, Magnuson SJ, Newman RJ,, Desmond RA, Clemons L, Carroll WR. Robot-assisted surgery for upper aerodigestive tract neoplasms. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg Apr 2009;135( 4).