Throat cancer can be divided into two main types: pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer. Pharyngeal cancer is further divided into three types: nasopharynx cancer, oropharynx cancer, and hypopharynx cancer. Risk factors of throat cancer include a lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet, excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, gastroesophageal reflux disease, Epstein-Barr virus infection, and human papillomavirus infection. The risk of developing throat cancer increases with age in most patients over age sixty-five. Men are also more likely to develop throat cancer than women.
The diagnosis of throat cancer depends on the patient’s history, physical examinations, imaging tests, and biopsy. The survival rate depends on the location of the cancer and its stage. The stages of throat cancer are based on the TNM staging system (the size of the tumor, the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes, and metastasis). In 2009, as many as 30,676 cases of oropharyngeal and oral cavity cancer were reported in the United States, along with 24,900 cases of pharyngeal and laryngeal cancer.
Throat Cancer Symptom #1: Cough
A cough is a repetitively occurring reflex that aims to clear the airway and breathing passages from irritants, fluids, microbes, and foreign particles. It is a common and nonspecific symptom that is observed in various infections. Smoking, choking, air pollution, gastroesophageal reflux disease, asthma, chronic bronchitis, post-nasal drip, lung tumors, and throat cancer can also trigger a cough.
There are three phases of a cough: the inhalation phase, forced exhalation with a closed glottis, and the violent release of air after the opening of the glottis. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but cough suppressants, such as codeine and mucus expectorant, can help.