Throat cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Also known as the pharynx, the throat can be divided into three main sections:
- The nasopharynx: the part of the throat at the back of the nose
- The oropharynx: which is at the back of the mouth and contains the base of the tongue
- The hypopharynx: the part of the throat that connects the oesophagus to other parts of the throat
Cancer can affect any part of the throat, and there are some early warning signs you should look out for.
A new or unusual cough
If you develop a cough that you just can’t shake, it’s always worth getting it checked out. Whether you’re a smoker or not, a new, persistent cough shouldn’t be ignored. An unusual cough is one that lasts more than four to six weeks.
If you notice hoarseness in your voice or any other changes in the sound of your voice, you should be seen by a medical professional particularly if it is constant and has gone on for more than four weeks…
If you’re having swallowing difficulties or you feel like there’s something lodged in your throat, it could be a warning sign. This may develop gradually over time or may come on more suddenly. It is more pertinent if the feeling is constant rather than being there only when you swallow.
Most of us shake a sore throat within a few days if we’ve had a virus. If you have a sore throat that goes on for longer than seems normal (i.e., longer than four weeks), it’s time to seek advice.
Because the ear, nose, and throat are all connected, don’t dismiss a persistent earache as it could still be a sign of throat cancer. If the pain in your ear doesn’t fade after two or three weeks, it may well be a symptom. This of course does not include situations when you have had an ear infection.
A lump in the neck
Sometimes you can see (or feel) physical changes to the neck itself, so if you notice a neck lump has developed, don’t ignore it. Painful neck lumps are likely to be inflammatory and should settle with appropriate treatment. Painless neck lumps should be urgently assessed. This does not include thyroid lumps most of which aren’t cancer.
If you’re having trouble catching your breath or feel wheezy, it may well be an early sign of throat cancer. Breathing difficulties can be traumatic, so don’t put off getting medical advice.
Unexplained weight loss
As with most forms of cancer, throat cancer can lead to unexplained weight loss if you aren’t eating well. If you’re losing weight without even trying, don’t see it as a positive for your waistline – it could be a very serious symptom of cancer.
Book an appointment with Mr. Olarinde
Even if you only have one of these common early warning signs, it’s important you don’t ignore it. Your chances of survival increase dramatically if throat cancer can be caught early, so book an appointment with Mr. Wale Olarinde, our experienced surgeon, to get checked out today.