Throat Cancer

What is throat cancer?

The throat is a muscular tube that begins behind the nose and ends in the neck. Throat cancer is a harmful disease that begins when normal processes of cell division and growth are disrupted, giving way to abnormal, uncontrollable growth. The cells grow and accumulate into a mass (tumor). Cancer may spread (metastasize) to lymph nodes or other organs in the body. Throat cancer is a general term that applies to cancer that can develop in the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), or tonsils. The larynx is located just below the throat. Types of throat cancers include cancers of the: 
  • Pharynx, a hollow tube between the nose and esophagus (swallowing tube) that includes the:
  • Nasopharynx: upper section, behind the nose
  • Oropharynx: middle section, behind the mouth
  • Hypopharynx: bottom section, behind the larynx
  • Larynx is the part of the throat containing the vocal cords that help one speak. The larynx has three parts:
  • Glottis: middle portion which contains the vocal cords
  • Supraglottis: area above the vocal cords
  • Subglottis: area below the vocal cords and above the trachea (windpipe)
Risk factors
  • Tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol use 
  • Gender. Men are more likely to get cancer of the throat than women.
  • Race. African American men have the highest risk of getting throat cancer.
  • Age. Most cases occur over the age of 65.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, including nickel, asbestos and sulfuric acid fumes
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
To diagnose any throat cancer, a doctor may perform or order:
  • Physical exam checks for swollen lymph nodes in the neck and down the throat with a small mirror to detect anything unusual or foreign. 
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan takes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and a powerful magnet to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. 
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging test that helps reveal how metabolically active your body tissues are. 
  • Esophagoscopy uses an endoscope, which is inserted through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus to check for unusual areas.
  • Biopsy collects tissue samples that are removed and viewed under a microscope to determine if cancer is present.
Treatment decisions are based on what type of throat cancer a patient has and is aimed to decrease signs and symptoms to help one live longer. 
  • About 39,500 patients in the United States were diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015.
  • Caucasian men have the highest rate of getting cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx (17.9 per 100,000 men), followed by African American men (14.1).
  • Caucasian women have a higher rate of getting cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx (6.4) compared to Asian/Pacific Islander women (5.1), and then African American women (5.0). 
about throat cancer

  • "Throat Cancer." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 01 Oct. 2015. Web. 27 June 2017.
  • "Esophageal Cancer." Esophageal Cancer | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Health System, n.d. Web. 27 June 2017.
  • "Oropharyngeal Cancer (Throat Cancer)." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 27 June 2017.
  • "Hypopharyngeal Cancer Symptoms & Treatment." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 2 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 June 2017.
  • "Head and Neck Cancers." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 27 June 2017.
  • "Throat Cancer." Throat Cancer | MD Anderson Cancer Center. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, n.d. Web. 27 June 2017.


Cancer is caused by both internal and external factors. Internal factors include genetic mutation and hormones, while external factors include tobacco use and poor diet. While not all cancer is preventable, there are a handful of lifestyle choices that can help lower the risk of developing cancer. Here are five ways to prevent cancer:
cancer prevention - 5 lifestyle choices


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