About 13,560 new cases of cancer of the
throat occur each year


What is Throat Cancer?

Throat Cancer is an aggressive cancer that has two forms: laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers, both four-stage cancers. In 2015, there are 13,560 new cases of laryngeal cancer with 3,640 deaths resulting from the cancer. Although it is aggressive, laryngeal cancer rates are decreasing as less people are smoking.Throat Cancer, like many other cancers, don’t have an exact cause, but there are certain risk factors that can intensify or increase the chances of one obtaining Throat Cancer. Throat cancers are often grouped with other cancers of the mouth and throat, and as a result, share similar risk factors like tobacco use, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections, and age. Still, avoiding controllable factors like drugs and tobacco can greatly reduce the risk of having throat cancers.

It's important to remember that the earlier any form of cancer is detected, the easier it is to completely get rid of it, and Throat Cancer is a cancer that can easily be diagnosed. Some of noticeable symptoms include: hoarseness or voice changes (especially when the problem lasts 2 weeks or more), sore throat that doesn’t go away, constant coughing, and pain while swallowing. The symptoms related to the cancer are common to symptoms of the flu or common cold, but there is no harm in asking a doctor if you think the symptoms may be related to a cancer. Below is a graph that shows the 5-year survival rate of Larynx Cancers..

Those who do not survive 5-Year Survival

Laryngeal Cancer

This is one of the two main forms of throat cancer. The cancer starts in the larynx which is located above the opening to the trachea (windpipe). The larynx is most well-known as the voice box because your vocal chords are here but also serves to shut your throat from food or water entering the lungs and helps you breathe. Almost all cancer in the larynx forms because of flat and thin cells (squamous cells). The malignant squamous cells cover the larynx and growth of even more cells can result in the numerous amounts of symptoms listed above. Carcinogens can increase the risk of these cells forming.

The chances of developing Laryngeal Cancer is very low, affecting 3.2 per 100,00 men and women per year, but it is important to treat it early by getting a diagnosis. Biopsies of the throat, or taking sample tissue from an area of your body, can be used to test if there are cancerous cells in the throat. Because the larynx is located deep in one’s body, special forms of head and neck exams can be taken to retrieve and test tissues for cancer. Also, avoidance of controllable factors like cigarettes can greatly reduce the risk of obtaining laryngeal cancer. The risk of a current or past heavy smoker developing Laryngeal Cancer is about 40 times the risk of Laryngeal Cancer of a non smoker.

Laryngeal Cancer growth is examined through the TNM system. The system measures for T (Tumor), N (Node), and M (Metastasis) with different stages in each measurement. Each of these “letters” have several stages in them with varying degrees of severity. The T function checks the size of the primary tumor. Next, the N function checks whether the lymph nodes have cancer cells in them. The M function has two levels, 0 and 1, meaning cancer hasn’t spread and cancer has spread to other places like the lung, respectively. From there, doctors can determine the grade (1,2,3) of the cancer in increasing severity.

Hypopharyngeal Cancer

The second type of throat cancer is Hypopharyngeal Cancer which exists the pharynx. The pharynx like the larynx exists in the throat but also in the back of nasal cavity covering three areas called the nasopharynx, oropharynx, and hypopharynx. The hypopharynx helps make sure that food goes around the larynx and goes to the esophagus. Also, like Laryngeal Cancer, the cancer in the pharynx is caused by flat squamous cells that irregularly multiply out of control and form tumors that can grow to other parts of the body. The risk factors of alcohol, tobacco, and age are the same, yet Hypopharyngeal Cancer occurs less frequently than Laryngeal Cancer, affecting 2,500 people every year.

The cancer growth is examined through the same TNM system, but the only difference exists in the T functions. The T function for Hypopharyngeal Cancer looks if tumors have formed in Pyriform sinuses, side and back parts of the hypopharyngeal walls, and in the location where the throat and esophagus meet. In addition, the T function for this cancer also looks for the size of the tumors.

Advancements in Treatment

For both Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer, detection and diagnosis can be costly but is very easy. The symptoms are clear and visible as they share qualities with that of flu symptoms. This chart highlights the 5-year survival percentages for the various stages of Throat Cancer. As one can see, survival varies for where the cancer exists even for the two types of throat cancer. Survival rates tend to be higher for those with Laryngeal Cancer. Still, for Stage I, the rates are usually high but drop off from there. Throat Cancer kills with a lack of immediate testing, and one can mitigate this threat by getting regularly tested.

To highlight these trends, below is a graph that provides survival information for cancers originating in the Glottis, which is a part of the Larynx that includes the vocal cords.

Relative 5-Year Survival Percentages by Stage

What is being done?

A general rule with cancer is that the earlier it is detected, the greater the chance of survival. Throat Cancer is no exception, and medical technology has progressed to the point where diagnoses are common, but mortalities are increasingly rare. But since traditional therapies like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, while effective, are unpleasant and potentially harmful to Throat Cancer patients, scientists and doctors are hard at work developing viable alternative forms of treatment to kill cancerous cells.

Treatment by Laryngectomy

Whether or not the severity of the Laryngeal Cancer is high or low, treatment by Laryngectomy requires some form on removal of the larynx. The purpose of any Laryngectomy is the same: to remove the entire cancer while leaving behind as much of the larynx as possible. So, some people will undergo a partial Laryngectomy where the top part of one’s Larynx is removed along with the cancer cells. Patients can still speak following this surgery. However, a full Laryngectomy requires the total removal of the larynx, preventing one from being able to speak using vocal chords.

However, the ability to speak is not completely lost. Nowadays, the most common method of restoring speech is done through Tracheo-esophageal puncture (TEP). This method requires a small hole to be punctured through one’s throat order to allow air to be passed from the lung to the mouth, resulting in sustained speech.

Treatment by Radiation Therapy

A common way to rid early stage Throat Cancers is to use radiation therapy. Although the cost is much higher than other methods, it can kill cancer cells and not damage vocal chords, allowing patients to speak normally. It may be used after surgery to try to lower the risk that the cancer will come back. There are even more different types of radiation therapy, but the most common type is external beam radiation therapy. External beam radiation therapy focuses radiation on a certain part of your body. Patients using this therapy usually have a schedule of daily doses of 5 days per week, for about 7 weeks.

While radiation therapy is a strong and effective method of removing throat cancer, it can include multiple side effects and can worsen the cancer if patients are participating in controllable risk factors. Smoking or alcohol use can greatly can come in conflict with the radiation therapy and worsen pre-existing conditions in a patient. Also, the rate or pace at which the therapy occurs can increase the risk of severe side effects. Accelerated fractionation, a shorter term schedule of radiation therapy, delivers radiation at higher doses which can kill the cancer faster or reduce the risk of it coming back but also run the risk of creating stronger side effects.

For both types of throat cancers, the number of cases has decreased over time. Specifically, death rates have been falling on average 2.3% each year over 2003-2012. This can be attributed to the dwindling number of people smoking, specifically cigarettes. Generally, the survival rate has increased as well with better and more efficient technology.

How to Help

If left untreated or if discovered in its later stages, Throat Cancer can be deadly. We've looked at a variety of treatments intended to revolutionize its treatment and help save more lives. But we also need to look at the awareness of Throat Cancer. The absolute best way to remain safe from Throat Cancer is to get oneself tested every year even for symptoms like sore throat, which if it continues, can be a sign of cancer. Because if left untreated, Stage III and IV are highly fatal. Also, avoiding risk factors like tobacco use and alcohol use can reduce the risk of developing cancer. The following organizations help to promote awareness of this disease as well as fund and contribute to research involving highly efficient treatment procedures.

The Throat Cancer Foundation

The Throat Cancer Foundation was founded in 2012 by Jamie Rae, a survivor of throat cancer. His group aims to reduce the effect throat cancer has not only on the people who have it but everyone else around them too. His inspiration came from a want to teach and inform people of ways to donate and learn about throat cancer, an underreported cancer.

The group is excelled in knowing up-to-date information regarding throat cancer and try to serve as a support group along with funding research to help end throat cancer. The group also wants to end HPV infections and has pushed for global HPV vaccination opportunities for all people. Its scientists and doctors are some of the leading experts in their respective fields, and you can find a complete list of the members of the Throat Cancer Foundation here.

People like you are the ones who keep foundations such as this running. Because of the continued support of generous individuals, these foundations are able to keep up their work and slowly destroy a disease that plagues people around the world. Take a simple step forward today, and contribute to the battle against Throat Cancer and diseases like it through The Throat Cancer Foundation.


Oracle Cancer Trust

The Oracle Cancer Trust is a UK based charity organization that conducts research to ensure breakthroughs in head and neck cancer treatment. Improving the life of patients and ending throat cancers by funding and performing experimental studies, quality of life analysis and clinical studies of ground-breaking anti-cancer therapies is their goal and numerous grants have been given to fund this.

The organization has been able to help fund three PhD projects recently and plans to expand to be able to conduct more research to fund specific projects like quality of voice, speech and swallowing function following laryngectomy. The development of research into very specific projects like these can only continue with the support of you. Click the link below to donate, and to help bring this planet one step closer to eradicating the threat of diseases like Throat Cancer forever.


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The online age has developed easy and free communication between millions of people on the planet. You can aid the fight against Throat Cancer without having to open your wallet at all! Getting others informed is one of the single best contributors to detection and survivability. This is the power of word of mouth, the power of sharing our thoughts and ideas to make a change. You can click on the buttons below to get started. Spread the word!

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