Throat Cancer in Tampa and Spring Hill, FL
Throat cancer is a generalized term that describes cancers of the larynx, tonsils and other structures of the throat. Throat cancer causes a range of symptoms that may be misdiagnosed, especially in the early stages. The board-certified Otolaryngologist/Head and Neck Surgeons of Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists are specially trained to recognize the early signs of throat cancer in patients living in Tampa, Spring Hill and nearby towns in Florida.
What Is Throat Cancer?
Any cancer that attacks an individual’s voice box, tonsils, or that develops anywhere on their throat is referred to as throat cancer. This would also include tumors that grow in that area.
The human throat is basically a tube that is full of muscles. It starts just behind the nose and goes through the neck. Our voice box is positioned just under our throat. The voice box can fall prey to throat cancer. The human voice box is composed primarily of cartilage. It is home to the vocal cords. When a person talks, the vocal cords vibrate to create sound.
Throat cancer is aggressive and has been known to attack the epiglottis. This is a small piece of cartilage that functions as a lid that closes over your windpipe. Tonsil cancer is another type of throat cancer. The human tonsils are situated in the back part of the throat. Individuals who smoke, chew tobacco and drink excessive amounts of alcohol increase their chances of getting throat cancer.
Symptoms of Throat Cancer
Some of the symptoms of throat cancer are:
- Heavy Coughing
- Fluctuations in the Voice, Including Voice Loss
- Pain When Swallowing
- Pain or Discomfort in the Ear
- A Growth or Lump in the Throat That Will Not Heal
- Sore Throat
- Unexplained Weight Loss
Causes of Throat Cancer
Like other types of cancer, throat cancer is the result of genetic mutations that occur in the cells around the throat. These mutations cause these cells to grow in an uncontrolled manner, and they also cause the mutated cells to have a lifespan that far exceeds those of normal cells. As the mutated cells grow and accumulate, they begin to form a tumor in the throat.
The mutation of cells that results in cancer is relatively misunderstood. However, doctors have been able to identify some lifestyle factors that could increase a person’s risk of getting throat cancer.
Types of Throat Cancer
Throat cancer is an overall term that is used to describe any form of cancer that develops in or around the throat (pharyngeal cancer). This term can also be applied to cancers that form on or in the voice box (laryngeal cancer).
The throat and the voice box work together. The voice box is situated right underneath the throat. The majority of throat cancers stem from the same type of cells. Different terminology is used to describe different throat cancers based on the part of the throat where the cancer began.
- Cancer that originates in the area of the throat just behind the nose is called nasopharyngeal cancer.
- Cancer that originates in the area of the throat that is just behind the mouth including the area of the tonsils is referred to as Oropharyngeal cancer.
- Cancer that originates in the lower section of the throat in the area above the esophagus and the windpipe is called Hypopharyngeal cancer.
- Cancer that originates in the vocal cords is called Glottic cancer.
- Cancer that originates in the top part of the larynx or in the epiglottis (a small piece of cartilage designed to prevent food from entering the windpipe) is referred to as Supraglottic cancer.
- Cancer that originates in the lower part of the voice box in the area below the vocal cords is called Subglottic cancer.
Factors That Can Increase Your Risk of Throat Cancer
- Tobacco Use, Including Smoking Tobacco, and Chewing Tobacco
- Alcohol Abuse or Excessive Use of Alcohol
- The Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- A Diet That Lacks Fruits and Vegetables
Tests and Diagnosis
Diagnostic testing for throat cancer may include:
- Doctors may use an endoscope to get a better look at the throat. An endoscope is a specialized tool that not only magnifies the throat, but it also illuminates the area around the throat, giving doctors a better view of anything that is affecting the area. The procedure that the doctors use is called an endoscopy. The endoscope is outfitted with a small camera that will transmit images from the throat to a monitor that the doctor watches. Throughout the examination, the doctor is looking for abnormalities in the throat. A second type of scope that doctors can use is called a laryngoscope. This scope can be put inside the voice box. It is equipped with a lens to magnify the vocal cords, making it easy for the doctors to examine them. This examination is referred to as a laryngoscopy.
- A second examination doctors may recommend is a biopsy. A biopsy is used when doctors remove a sample of tissue from the throat for testing. Biopsies are usually recommended if an endoscopy or laryngoscopy reveals abnormalities in the throat. Tissue samples are collected by passing surgical instruments through the endoscope and collecting tissue for testing.
- Imaging test, including x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and PET’s, can help doctors determine how far the cancer has grown and if it is affecting areas underneath the surface of the throat or voice box.
Throat Cancer Treatments
Depending on how far the cancer has spread, doctors may recommend one of the following or a combination of the following therapies.
- Minimally invasive endoscopic surgery: allows doctors to remove entire tumors throughout the mouth without causing large incisions and without affecting a person’s ability to speak or to swallow.
- Trans-Oral Laser Microsurgery (TLM): is a procedure that uses a hollow core fiber that is very flexible. CO2 laser energy is transmitted through the fiber. This technique allows surgeons to access parts of the throat and to perform 360-degree resections around tumors in a way that was not previously possible.
- Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS): uses specialized surgical instruments, advanced computer technology, and state-of-the-art 3-D dimensional imaging to perform precision surgeries in the neck and throat.
- Supracricoid Partial Laryngectomy: During this procedure, vocal cords and thyroid cartilage are removed. Other structures that are needed to swallow food and to speak are spared.
The main objective of chemotherapy is to shrink the tumor or kill remaining cancer cells after surgery or radiation treatment has been performed. Chemotherapy may be combined with radiation therapy for patients who have large tumors or those who cannot physically tolerate surgery.
Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists offers the latest techniques in radiation therapy such as intensity modulated radiotherapy. When coupled with proton therapy and the skill of a well-trained doctor, intensity modulated radiotherapy allows healthy tissue around cancer tumors to be spared during the radiation process.
- Brachytherapy: Small radioactive seeds are inserted next to the body in close proximity to the tumor
- 3D-Conformal Radiation Therapy: Radiation beams are given that are the exact shape and size of the tumor
- Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy: A specialized form of treatment tailored to the shape and size of the tumor
The physicians of Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists have the knowledge, skill and expertise you need for your throat cancer. If you are interested in finding out how we can help with your diagnosis and treatment, contact our office in Tampa or Spring Hill to schedule a consultation.