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Throat Cancer in Women

Overview

Throat cancers are one of the malignancies classified under head and neck cancers. There are two major classifications of throat cancer namely pharyngeal and laryngeal cancers. Pharyngeal cancers refer to the cancer in the pharynx (the hollow tube inside the neck that extends from behind the nose to the top of the trachea and the esophagus.)  Pharyngeal cancers can be subdivided according to the area affected. It could be called nasopharyngeal if it affects the upper part of the pharynx behind the nose, oropharyngeal if it affects the middle part of the pharynx, and hypopharyngeal if it affects the bottom part of the pharynx. Laryngeal cancers in the other hand are malignant tumors in the larynx which can grow in the glottis area  supraglottic area, and subglottis. Throat cancers can also involve the base of the tongue and the tonsils.

Risk Factors

It commonly affects males over 60 years of age but it can also happen in women. Tobacco smoking or second-hand smoke, excessive alcohol use, HPV infection, chronic laryngitisand familial disposition can predispose a person tothroat cancer. Women who are construction workers, exposed in chemicals, leather and metals, other carcinogenic materials, and women who frequently strain her voice are also at risk for throat cancer, mainly laryngeal cancer. Laryngeal cancer is more common in women than in men. Each year in the United States, approximately 9,000 new cases are discovered, and 3,700 persons with cancer of the larynx will die (American Cancer Society, 2002). In the United States, new cases of laryngeal cancer reached to about 12,720 versus pharyngeal cancer which is 12,660. In 2010, the death toll claimed 3,600 lives for laryngeal cancer versus pharyngeal cancer numbering to only 2,410 according to the National Cancer Institute.

Signs and symptoms

Throat cancer may have different symptoms according to their anatomical involvement but other common symptoms are similar. The woman can experience difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) and painful swallowingor burning sensation (odynophagia) especially when consuming hot liquids or citrus juices. Dysphagia is the most uncomfortable symptom commonly experienced by patients. Odynophagia may or may not be present.Presenting symptoms include sore throat or a cough that does not go away, weight loss, hematemesis or blood-tinged sputum, ear ache due to increase in pressure, and a lump in the back of the mouth, throat or neck which is the most obvious symptom.Her voice may be unusually husky, raspy or hoarse due to laryngeal nerve involvement. In advanced stages, the tumor can block the airway causing serious obstruction.

Treatment options

Prevention is always better than cure and the most effective way is for the woman to refrain exposure of carcinogenic materials such as Tobacco (smoke, smokeless), combined effects of alcohol and tobacco, asbestos, paint fumes, wood dust, cement dust, tar products, mustard gas and other risk factors as aforementioned. If your family has a history of cancer, certain dietary and lifestyle modifications can decrease chances of cancer from developing such as smoking cessation and limiting alcohol intake. Dietary modifications can include more fresh vegetables in the diet plan (emphasizing more greens belonging to the cabbage family) because studies says thatvitamin-rich foods and much roughage prevents certain cancers from developing. Foods rich in Vitamin A can significantly reduce the risk for laryngeal cancer (adapted from the “Taking Control” program of the American Cancer Society.) If the woman experienced all the symptoms stated above, it is recommended that she must see her physician immediately, preferably an EENT specialist. If her condition is of cancer origin, an oncologist can schedule a surgery which includes removal of the tumor. If the tumor is so large, radiologic and chemotherapy can be issued. By then, her physician can offer her all the surgical and medical options possible.

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