Throat Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Cancer is a kind of disease that multiplies and increases abnormal cells uncontrollably within the body. These abnormal and unusual cells then become cancerous through malignant transformation or growth. Throat cancer is the cancer that affects primarily the tonsils, vocal cords and oropharynx. There are two major categories of throat cancer: laryngeal cancer and pharyngeal cancer. Throat cancer isn’t as common or popular as the other types of cancer. According to the national cancer institute, an estimate of 1.2 percent [1] of adults in the United States will be diagnosed with pharyngeal cancer and oral cavity, and 0.3 percent [2] with laryngeal cancer during their lifetime.

The exact cause of throat cancer isn’t known yet, however, some factors may increase the risks and some of them include:

  • Tobacco use: This includes chewing or smoking tobacco and intake of snuff.
  • Alcohol: Intake of alcohol in unhealthy proportions may increase the risk of throat cancer.
  • Poor nutrition: Deficiencies in vitamins in the body may play a part in causing throat cancer.
  • Inherited Genetic conditions: An example of such a condition is fanconi anemia. [3]
  • Age: According to research, above 50% of throat cancer diagnosis is seen in advanced age, after the age of 65. Older people are at a higher risk of the disease.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: Exposure to chemicals or substances used in industries such as the metalworking and petroleum industries may increase the risk factor.
  • HPV infection: HPV infection increases the risk of several forms of cancer, including throat cancer. [4]
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): This is a condition where acid leaks into the food pipe from the stomach. [5]

Regardless of the risk factors for throat cancer, there are signs and symptoms that point toward the disease and should be looked out for when diagnosing throat cancer. The signs and symptoms of throat cancer may differ in persons depending on the part of the throat affected. However, the following are some general signs and symptoms:

Difficulty Swallowing

A common and general symptom which some people experience is a burning and painful sensation when swallowing. Dysphagia is another name for this condition. [6] It may also feel like food is stuck or lodged somewhere in the throat, and is unable to get out. So, when eating and even drinking anything, persons may experience a lot of difficulty in swallowing the food or liquid being consumed.