The throat, or pharynx, is a muscular tube the stretches approximately 5 inches from the base of the neck to the back of the nose. Beneath the pharynx is the voice box, or larynx. Both the pharynx and the larynx are susceptible to throat cancer. In fact, about 50% of all throat cancers arise in the larynx.
When cells displaying uncontrolled growth, invasion, and/or metastasis arise in the throat, a cancer may develop. These cells, having undergone an anomalous transformation that causes them to proliferate abnormally, form a structure called a neoplasm. If this neoplasm destroys adjacent tissues, and/or spreads to other areas of the body, a cancer is formed.
Approximately 24,000 people are diagnosed with throat cancer every year in the United States alone. Learn more about Throat Cancer Symptoms, the Stages of Throat Cancer and Throat Cancer Treatment. You can also check out the Throat Cancer page on the Mayo Clinic website for more info.
Throat Cancer Risk Factors
- Tobacco Use: Smoking and/or chewing tobacco forces the throat, larynx, and many other organs to interact with harmful chemicals that can lead to the development of a cancer. Chemical exposure is one of the leading causes of all cancers. Smoking, as well as the over consumption of processed foods, is nothing more than a premeditated form of chemical exposure. Interestingly, humans will often make drastic lifestyle changes in order to avoid excessive exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, but in the case of tobacco use, it has become a multibillion-dollar industry. This is one of the grand paradoxes of human behavior and health.
- Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption may lead to the development of a throat cancer. Remember, alcohol is technically a chemical that is poisonous to the body. In moderation, many alcoholic beverages can actually contribute to good overall health. In excess, however, alcohol consumption forces the throat to interact with exorbitant amounts of potentially damaging chemicals.
- Poor Dental Hygiene: Keeping the entire oral cavity clean can reduce a person’s risk of developing a throat cancer.
- Diet: The consumption of fruits and vegetables contributes to overall good health and a reduced risk of developing a throat cancer.
- Asbestos Exposure: The inhalation of this fiber can result in the development of a throat cancer.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): For reasons that are not completely understood, this sexually transmitted disorder can lead to the development of throat cancer.
If the cancer is detected early, 90% of throat cancer patients are cured. When the cancer has spread to surround tissues or into the neck’s lymph nodes, the cure rate is reduced to 50-60%. Throat cancers that metastasize beyond the head and neck are incurable. Most patients require therapies after treatments to help them speak and swallow normally. Approximately 5% of throat cancer patients permanently lose the ability to swallow and must be fed through a feeding tube.
Throat Cancer Prevention
- Stop Chewing and/or Smoking Tobacco: If you are a smoker, talk to you healthcare provider about treatments, therapies, and social networks that can help you quit. If you are not a smoker, don’t start. Smokers will experience a drastic reduction in the amount of harmful chemicals that they introduce into their bodies if they quit. This reduction will diminish a smoker’s chances of developing a throat cancer.
- Consume Alcohol in Moderation: If you drink alcohol excessively, talk to your healthcare provider about measures that you can take to help you quit. The moderate consumption of alcohol will not bombard your body with harmful chemicals. In fact, beverages such as red wine contain many wonderful qualities, such as antioxidants and minerals, that are conducive to good overall health and happiness.
- Be Careful Around Chemicals: When working with chemicals, always read and follow any safety instructions.