While the throat is a small area, it is made of several distinct regions, so throat cancers are named after their location on the body. Here are the four most common types of throat cancers you should know about.
Laryngeal cancer is cancer of the larynx. The larynx, commonly known as the voice box, is an organ in the neck, lying above the trachea/oesophagus and in the middle of the rest of the throat . It is responsible for sound production, protecting the lower respiratory tract (lungs), and it also assists in swallowing.
Most laryngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, meaning they originate in the first layer of surface lining of the voice box. Symptoms include:
- Ear ache
- Voice changes
- A persistent cough
- Difficulty swallowing
- Painless neck lumps
Drinking too much alcohol and using tobacco products increase your risk of developing this disease.
Pharyngeal cancer is cancer of the pharynx, which is the part of the throat leading from the mouth and nasal cavity to the oesophagus. Pharyngeal cancer can further be classified into cancer of the nasopharynx, hypopharynx, or oropharynx, depending on its exact location. The larynx is also sometimes referred to as the laryngopharynx.
Like laryngeal cancers, the majority of pharyngeal cancers are also squamous cell carcinomas. They are more predominant in males, and one of the first symptoms are painless upper neck lumps. Other common symptoms include:
- Persistent (rather than intermittent) feeling of a lump in your throat
- Ringing in usually just one ear
- Nasal congestion on just one side particularly with nose bleeds on the same side
- Persistent facial pain
Oropharyngeal cancer is cancer of the oropharynx, the middle part of your throat. If you have a history of smoking, alcohol use, and radiation therapy to the head and neck, you are more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer.
Exposure to the human papillomavirus [HPV], especially HPV type 16 also increases your chance of developing this cancer.
Some of the most common symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include:
- Swallowing difficulties
- Difficulty opening up your mouth or moving your tongue
- Voice changes
- A persistent sore throat
- A lump in your neck
- Unexplained weight loss
- A persistent white patch on your tongue or mouth lining
- A persistent (not just when you swallow) feeling of a lump in your throat.
Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of throat cancer that affects the pharynx. It is much harder to diagnose because the symptoms resemble those of less severe conditions. Symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer can include:
- Hearing loss usually on just one side
- Tinnitus (i.e. unexplained noises in just one ear)
- Nosebleeds usually on just one side
- A lump in the neck usually a painless lump
- A blocked nose on just one side of recent onset.
Exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus [EBV] (the same virus that causes glandular fever) increases your chances of developing pharyngeal cancer.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, book a consultation at ENT Sheffield today.