Throat cancer refers to cancer of the voice box, the vocal cords, and other parts of the throat, such as the tonsils and oropharynx. Throat cancer is often grouped into two categories: pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer.
Although all throat cancers involve the development and growth of abnormal cells, your doctor has to identify your specific type to determine the most effective treatment plan.
Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the part of the throat connecting the back of the nose to the back of the mouth (the pharynx).
In the UK, about 250 people are diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer each year.
Nasopharyngeal cancer shouldn’t be confused with other types of cancer that also affect the throat, such as laryngeal cancer and oesophageal cancer.
- being of south Chinese or north African descent
- having a diet very high in salt-cured meats and fish
- being exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common virus that causes glandular fever
- having a job where you’re regularly exposed to hardwood dust
- having a first-degree relative, such as a parent, who’s had the condition
How to Identify?
It can be difficult to detect throat cancer in its early stages. Common signs and symptoms of throat cancer include:
- change in your voice
- trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
- weight loss
- sore throat
- constant need to clear your throat
- persistent cough (may cough up blood)
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- ear pain
If your doctor finds cancerous cells in your throat, they will order additional tests to identify the stage, or the extent, of your cancer.
- Stage 0: The tumor is only on the top layer of cells of the affected part of the throat.
- Stage 1: The tumor is less than 2 cm and limited to the part of the throat where it started.
- Stage 2: The tumor is between 2 and 4 cm or may have grown into a nearby area.
- Stage 3: The tumor is larger than 4 cm or has grown into other structures in the throat or has spread to one lymph node.
- Stage 4: The tumor has spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs.
What to Do?
A laryngoscopy gives your doctor a closer view of your throat. If this test reveals abnormalities, your doctor may take a tissue sample (called a biopsy) from your throat and test the sample for cancer.