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Throat Cancer Breakdown

Throat Cancer – Spots signs early to raise throat cancer survival rate.

To better understand throat cancer in relation to other head and neck cancers, let's pinpoint where your doctor or dentist might find tumors: Throat cancer occurs in two places. It begins in either the pharynx or the larynx. Voice box or laryngeal cancer is the most common cancer of the throat.

The former and less common pharyngeal cancer occurs in three areas: in the nasopharynx, or upper throat behind the nose; the oropharynx, or middle portion; or in the hypopharynx, which is the bottom part of the throat. Tongue cancer at the back near the base or root is also considered a throat cancer, rather than an oral or mouth cancer.

As for your throat cancer survival rate, your chances are good if you catch throat cancer early, so get regular dental exams and pay attention to warning signs. There's a 90 percent throat cancer prognosis of survival if the cancer hasn't metastasized (spread). The throat cancer survival rate drops significantly once the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes - down to 50-60 percent, according to Medline Plus.

Doctors diagnosed about 12,300 new cases of laryngeal cancer and 12,600 new cases of pharyngeal cancers in 2009. About 6,000 patients died of throat cancer in that same year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Five Cancer of the Throat Risk Factors

What are the common risk factors for oropharyngeal cancer? Here are some overall triggers that may leave you prone to both mouth and throat cancers:

Factor 1: Alcohol and/or Tobacco - Use and abuse of these items are known throat cancer causes; though people who don't use alcohol and tobacco may also contract the disease. And the throat cancer survival rate decreases for patients who resume tobacco or alcohol use.

The American Cancer Society reports that 80 percent of people with oral cancer are smokers, and about 70 percent consume alcohol. (Some data suggests mouthwash with high alcohol contents might also trigger oral and oropharyngeal cancers, though this remains unproven.)

Factor 2: Virus Exposure - Cancer Treatment Centers of America cites a possible link between exposures to the human papillomavirus (HPV) or the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) to cancer of the throat.

The Washington Post reported research findings suggesting that HPV contracted through oral sex may account for increases in tonsil and base of the tongue cancers, but that other oral and throat cancer incidents decline as more people quit smoking. These throat cancer patients respond better to radiation treatment than people with oropharyngeal cancer caused by smoking and drinking, according to the American Cancer Society.

Factor 3: Poor Nutrition - Diets lacking fruits and vegetables might be one of the key throat cancer causes. Eat fresh produce to improve your throat cancer prognosis.

Factor 4: Age - Doctors tend to find people more prone to the disease as they age. There's no magic number, but as you get into your 40s and 50s, you should pay more attention to what's going on in your mouth. (Ill-fitting dentures are another suggested but as yet unproven throat cancer cause.)

Factor 5: Gender - For some reason, more men than women get throat cancer, possibly because more men than women smoke.

Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer Risks

Specific throat cancer types have specific risk factors. Here are the top two items that leave you more susceptible to larynx cancer:

Factor 1: Weakened Immune Systems - from AIDS or other immune deficiency diseases.

Factor 2: Race - Caucasians and African-Americans are more at risk for throat cancer of the larynx than Asians and Latinos, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Esophageal Cancer of the Throat Risks

Other parts of the throat fall prey to disease too. Improve your throat cancer survival rate by recognizing these three medical and environmental conditions as possible factors:

Factor 1: Diseases - If you're experiencing frequent heartburn or acid backwash and regurgitation, you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux disease, which irritates your throat linings and leave you at risk for cancer of the throat. GERD symptoms also lead to Barrett's Esophagus, another throat cancer risk factor. Patients with achalasia or tylosis should also watch for symptoms.

Factor 2: Obesity - risk factors for throat cancer increase with weight.

Factor 3: Stomach Bacteria - H. pylori bacteria keeps your stomach from producing as much acid as it should. Treatment for too much H. pylori may leave you prone to throat cancer.

Factor 4: Chemical Solvents - Work in an industry that exposes you to chemical solvents? If so, remember that certain chemicals constitute more throat cancer causes. Dry cleaning employees are especially at risk.

Throat Cancer Symptoms

So what should you look for if you fall into any of these 11 risk categories and want to increase your throat cancer survival rate? Watch out for abnormal or high-pitched breathing sounds, coughing up blood, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, neck pain, sore throat, swellings in the neck and unintentional weight loss. Persistency may be worrisome with some of these signs, particularly for cold or flu symptoms like hoarseness and sore throat. If they last more than a week or two, or if they persist despite antibiotic treatments, go back to your doctor.  

Remember, your throat cancer prognosis improves with early detection. See your dentist if you discover any unusual lesions on the back of your tongue or around your throat area. A dentist can generally do a biopsy right away or send you to a specialist if necessary.

Need a dentist to check out your symptoms? Call us at 1-866-970-0441 and we'll find a great one near you.

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