What is throat cancer?

Throat cancer may refer to any type of cancer that originates in the mid-section of the head and neck (oropharynx) region, beginning at the back of the mouth, to the lowest portion of the throat (hypopharynx). This section includes the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate, the intersection of the throat, the windpipe (trachea), and the beginning of the food pipe.

Due to multiple occupational, lifestyle-related, genetic and sporadic factors, prolonged genetic mutations in the cells of the region can lead to an abnormal growth of cells, ultimately forming a malignant tumor which affects bodily functions, and can potentially spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, lungs, and the brain.

Types of throat cancer

What are the different types of throat cancer?

Throat cancer is mainly categorized based on the site of origin. Aside from cancers of the voice box and cancers of the vocal cords, throat cancer is broadly segmented as:

  • Oropharyngeal cancer (Cancer of the base of the tongue, tonsils, or soft palate)
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer (Cancer of the lower end of the throat, or throat-windpipe intersection)

Want to get more information on the types and classifications of throat cancer? See the full article on throat cancer types

Signs and symptoms of throat cancer

What are the common signs and symptoms of throat cancer?

The most common signs of throat cancer are:

  • Feeling of lump in the throat
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Change in the voice- hoarseness of voice (that does not go away) or hot voice (potato voice).
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Pain in the ears, or jaw
  • Fast and unexplained weight loss (without dietary regulations or exercise)
  • Swelling in the neck

To read more on the complete set of signs and symptoms of throat cancer, please read our full article on the subject

Risk factors for throat cancer

What are the most common risk factors for throat cancer?

The most common risk factors for throat cancer have been identified as tobacco use (smoking, chewing tobacco) and over-consumption of alcohol. Other than these, the other less-prominent risk factors for throat cancer include:

  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Exposure to wood dust
  • Exposure to paint fumes
  • History of plummer-vinson syndrome, which is a rare condition that causes difficulty in swallowing and may be a risk factor for hypopharyngeal cancer.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is an important risk factor for the development of oropharyngeal cancer especially cancer of tonsils and base of tongue.

To know more about the possible causes and risk factors of throat cancer, read our full article on the subject

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