What Is Throat Cancer?


Quick Answer

Throat cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the voice box, tonsils or the pharynx, the hollow passageway that begins from the nose and mouth leading to the esophagus and larynx, according to the National Cancer Institute. Throat cancer is also called pharyngeal cancer.

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Full Answer

Cancers of the nasopharynx, the oropharynx, the hypopharynx and the larynx are throat cancers, explains the National Cancer Institute. Throat cancers typically begin in fish-scale-like cells that are thin and flat.

Doctors have identified certain risks for developing throat cancer, but it is unclear what causes the mutations, states Mayo Clinic. The term used to describe a patient's throat cancer depends on where the cancer started. Glottic cancer starts in the vocal chords, while nasopharyngeal cancer is cancer that starts behind the nose in the throat. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in the United States in 2014, new cases of throat cancer numbered 12,630 for the laryngeal form and 14,410 for the pharyngeal form.

Tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, HPV and a diet with inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables can increase an individual's risk of developing throat cancer, according to Mayo Clinic. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used to treat throat cancer. Surgeries that remove part or all of the voice box or the throat are recommended for late-stage throat cancer patients.

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