You can win your battle against throat cancer with a positive attitude. But first, it’s critical not to ignore the signs of cancer in your throat. This form of cancer is highly treatable – especially if you catch the condition early. Small tumors in the throat can be removed with relatively little damage.
The Mayo Clinic defines cancer of the throat as cancer of the throat, voice box, or tonsils. This cancer, which is not as common as other cancers, usually begins in the flat cells on the inside of the throat, the pharynx. Throat-related cancer can also damage the epiglottis, which is the cover of the windpipe.
If cancer spreads before being detected, the prognosis is less positive. To eradicate the cancerous cells, surgeons might have to remove parts of your vocal cords, jaw, voice box, tonsils, and oropharynx. Therefore, it’s essential to check with your doctor if you develop symptoms that persist for a long time.
Risk Factors for Throat Cancer
Men are more susceptible to throat cancer than women. Key lifestyle habits can put you at higher risk. These risky behaviors include:
- Using smokeless tobacco, aka snuff or dip
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Poor oral hygiene – brushing your teeth keeps your heart and throat healthy
- Not getting the proper nutrition
- Asbestos exposure
- HPV infections, which are sexually transmitted viruses
Mayo Clinic Recommendations for Preventing Throat Cancer
The Mayo Clinic offers these five tips for reducing your risks of developing any cancer and improving your general health:
Give Up Tobacco
Tobacco – in all its forms – increases your risk of developing cancer and other health disorders that make you more vulnerable. Quitting tobacco is an essential step in cancer prevention, so you should discuss medical options with your doctor to help you stop.
Healthy food strengthens your body, clears your mind, and improves your spiritual health. You should eat plenty of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Ideally, minimal or no processing is best for dietary health.
That means eating raw foods, avoiding added sugars, and consuming whole grains. Lower your consumption of red meat, fats, and processed food.
Manage Your Weight
Both obese and underweight people are more susceptible to all types of cancer. Lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise.
Take up a hobby or sport that keeps you physically active – even if it’s just going for a walk in different parts of your hometown. Older people can make social connections and get healthy exercise in a safe environment by power-walking at a local mall in the morning.
Protect Yourself from Sexually Transmitted Infections
Infections like HPV can increase your risk of throat cancer. There are perfectly natural ways to protect yourself from sexual viruses. These include using condoms, avoiding infected body fluids, and never sharing needles. Avoid risky sexual practices, which include unprotected sex and unsafe contact with skin, genitals, and rectum.
Sexually transmitted infections are common among those who have unprotected sex with multiple partners, and these viral and bacterial infections can weaken your body – even when there are no visible symptoms. Avoid any practices that tear the skin or cause bleeding.
It’s essential to know your partners, avoid drugs and alcohol that impair your judgment.
Stay Protected from UV Rays
Cancer of the throat is relatively rare, but skin cancer is common and often metastasizes to other areas. Protect yourself from damaging ultraviolet rays with sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and staying in the shade. Avoid the sun completely between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Early Warning Signs of Cancer of the Throat
The top 10 early warning symptoms of cancer of the throat, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, include:
1. Sore Throat
The early stages of disease almost always generate a sore throat. Unlike cold- and flu-based soreness, the pain doesn’t go away in a few days.
2. Weight Loss
Any form of cancer usually results in loss of weight. Throat pain can make it even more challenging to eat and swallow normally so that weight loss can be fast and severe.
3. Vocal Changes
Your voice often changes when you develop cancer in the throat. That’s where the voice box resides. Both laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers can cause hoarseness and changes in the sound of your voice.
According to the Rogel Cancer Center, laryngeal cancer often targets the vocal cords, but the good news is that these tumors are relatively easy to find and remove. Cancer that doesn’t start on the vocal cords is usually more developed by the time hoarseness occurs. Slurred words,
4. Problems Swallowing
It’s common to have difficulties swallowing food normally. Food often reels as if it sticks in the throat. You might feel a burning sensation when you try to swallow.
5. Finding a Lump in the Neck
Enlarged lymph nodes are a significant symptom of many types of cancer. The nodes in the neck are located right below the back of the lower jaw on each side. There are many possible causes of enlarged lymph nodes, which include the common cold. Nodes that keep growing and don’t swell and shrink are critical signs to see your doctor.
Persistent coughing that doesn’t improve is a telling symptom – especially if you begin to cough up blood. Smokers should be able to detect the difference in smoker’s cough and cancer-related coughing.
7. Trouble Opening Your Mouth Normally
You might develop problems opening your mouth and chewing your food.
8. Lump in the Jaw, Neck or Mouth
It’s not just the lymph nodes that are symptoms of oral cancer. If you find a bump anywhere in the mouth, jaw, throat, or neck, you should see a doctor immediately.
Nosebleeds are common symptoms of oral cancers – especially if you’re not usually susceptible to them.
Headaches are frequent, and they can range from behind the eyes to full-on migraine-type events. The pain might extend into the neck and shoulders.
If you develop any of these symptoms that persist for more than a few days, you should see your doctor immediately. Throat cancer can be treated with great success in the early stages, but don’t give up hope if the disease is in the advanced stages.
Throat Cancer Treatment Options
Treatment options for cancers of the throat include the standard arsenal of cancer treatments:
During surgery, the surgeon will attempt to remove all traces of cancerous growths on the pharynx, larynx, and tonsils.
A course of chemical therapy is used to kill cancerous cells and tumors.
- Radiation TherapyDoctors use radiation to kill cancerous growth while hoping not to damage healthy tissue. Radiation is often used to treat chronic cases of cancer in the throat.
This treatment combines the benefits of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It’s often used for laryngeal cancer to preserve the voice box. The technique is also used as a substitute for surgery.
Pain Management for Throat Cancer
Despite medical advances, cancer diagnoses are still horrifying causes of stress and anxiety. According to one research paper, managing the pain of cancer is still a tricky guessing game. Less than half of patients get what they feel as adequate pain medication.
Substandard pain management can prove extremely debilitating, and the lack of energy aggravates cancer. It’s been proven many times that staying active is one of the best ways to fight the disease. You might want to consider mind-body control techniques to manage your pain – such as yoga and breathing exercises.
A recent study discovered a new option for managing pain, which is called cryoneurolysis treatment. During this therapy, nerves are frozen to block them from transmitting pain signals.
Using Traditional Healing Methods in Fighting Cancer
Mental energy can often marshall your physical resources to prevent or fight cancer. There are no clinically proven ways to avoid cancer of the throat – except these four strategies, outlined by the cited Mayo Clinic article:
- Quitting tobacco or refusing to start the habit
- Drinking alcohol only in moderation
- Eating a healthy diet and practicing oral hygiene
- Protecting yourself from human papillomavirus, HPV, and other infectious agents during sexual intimacy
Maintaining a positive mental attitude can have an enormous effect on your overall health. Positively dealing with negative thoughts and learning how to optimize your brain power are both steps you can take to protect your health proactively.
Final Thoughts: Your Most Powerful Cancer-fighting Tool, Your Mind
Traditional mind-body techniques can help you fight cancer. These include practicing mental techniques to strengthen your mind-body connection, eating foods that help your body fight cancer, such as fruits and vegetables, and developing a strong will to beat cancer.
Your mental determination to beat cancer – and fight multiple recurrences in some cases – is the most robust tool available for fighting cancer. You should certainly consult your doctor at the first symptom of throat cancer. The reason is not to give up or give in to this awful disease but to fight it with all the medical, spiritual, physical, and mental tools at your disposal.