For throat cancer diagnosis, specialists recommend multiple diagnostic tests. These tests can help our specialists arrive at an accurate diagnosis and play a significant role in ensuring that patients with throat carcinoma receive the appropriate treatment.
When patients present themselves with throat cancer symptoms, doctors initially recommend a physical examination and medical history assessment. During a physical examination, the doctor will carefully examine the patient's throat, neck, and mouth to look for any signs of abnormality or lumps that may indicate throat cancer. The doctor may also thoroughly assess the patient’s medical history to determine the cause of the symptoms.
Doctors recommend blood tests to assess the patient's overall health, check for specific markers, and rule out other conditions.
A biopsy involves obtaining a throat tissue sample and examining it under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells. A biopsy is helpful in arriving at a conclusive diagnosis of throat cancer by providing crucial details, such as the stage and grade of the tumor. There are different types of biopsies, including:
An endoscopic biopsy uses an endoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a camera, to visualize and obtain a tissue sample from the affected area.
An incisional biopsy involves the removal of a small part of the tumor or affected tissue for analysis.
Image-guided biopsy involves using imaging tests, like a CT scan or MRI, to guide the needle for sample collection. The sample collected will be sent to the laboratory for evaluation
Imaging tests help visualize the throat and surrounding structures to determine the extent and location of the cancer. Imaging tests provide oncologists with crucial information like the stage of the disease, the exact location of the tumor, its shape and size, etc. Along with the diagnosis, imaging tests are also recommended for treatment planning, treatment response monitoring, and relapse evaluation.
A barium swallow is a special X-ray test that evaluates the esophagus and the throat region for abnormalities. During this procedure, patients are made to swallow barium solution, which coats the internal organs and makes them visible on the X-rays.
Ultrasound is another commonly recommended test for the diagnosis of throat cancer.It uses sound waves to create detailed images of the throat and nearby lymph nodes
Specialists may also recommend X-rays to identify any abnormal growths or changes in the throat.
Specialists recommend CT scans to obtain cross-sectional images of the throat. These images provide detailed information on multiple tumor parameters, such as the stage of the tumor, its size, and shape, and its exact location.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another commonly recommended imaging test for throat cancer diagnosis (गले का कैंसर की पहचान). It uses powerful magnets and radio waves to generate detailed images of the throat and surrounding tissues.
A positron emission tomography (PET) scan uses radiotracers to look for cancer. During this procedure, a radiotracer is injected into the patient’s body to create detailed images of the internal structures. When injected into the bloodstream, this radiotracer will travel to regions that have increased metabolic activity. Cancerous tissues appear as bright spots during the scan.
Endoscopy involves inserting an elongated tube with a light and camera source to examine the entire throat structure. At times, endoscopy is also used to obtain a biopsy sample.
Pharyngoscopy involves inserting an endoscope inside the mouth to examine the pharynx more closely.
A panendoscopy involves using an endoscope to examine the entire throat, including the larynx, pharynx, and esophagus. This procedure helps identify the exact location and extent of the cancer.
Laryngoscopy uses a flexible and elongated endoscope to examine the larynx.
Once the throat cancer diagnosis is confirmed, the oncologists will begin staging. The staging of throat cancer is crucial for determining the extent of the disease and planning personalized treatment plans. The stages of throat cancer are categorized as follows:
The cancer is localized to a small area of the throat or vocal cords.
The cancer is still localized but has a larger size than the stage 1 tumor.
Cancer has started spreading to nearby tissues and may affect multiple lymph nodes nearby.
The cancer has advanced significantly, spreading to nearby lymph nodes, structures, and distant organs.
There are multiple treatment approaches available for the management of throat carcinoma. Before recommending treatment for throat cancer, specialists consider various factors, such as the type of throat cancer, the disease stage, the tumor grade, the patient’s age, and the patient’s overall health status. In most cases, early-stage cancers can be treated with surgery alone. However, as the disease progresses, it will need a multimodal approach, which will involve radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.
For early-stage or small throat tumors, specialists recommend surgery, where the tumor and a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it (margin) will be removed. This procedure may or may not be followed by other cancer treatments.
Laryngectomy is recommended as a treatment approach for larynx cancer, and this procedure involves the partial or complete removal of the larynx or voice box. This procedure may or may not be followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Pharnygectomy involves the partial or complete removal of the pharynx. This surgical procedure may or may not be followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
If the cancer has spread from the throat to the nearby lymph nodes, cancer surgeons may have to remove those lymph nodes as well. This helps in preventing the cancer from spreading further. Neck dissection is often performed along with throat cancer surgery to achieve better clinical outcomes.
Radiation therapy is another important treatment recommended for throat cancer. During radiation therapy, the tumor is targeted with high-intensity radiation beams. These radiation beams kill cancer cells by destroying their DNA structure. Radiotherapy for throat cancer is often administered in combination with surgery or chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is another commonly recommended throat cancer treatment. Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. As the disease advances, the treatment plan for throat carcinoma often includes chemotherapy.
Throat cancer chemotherapy is found to improve the survival rates among throat cancer patients. Patients in terminal stages will also benefit from throat cancer chemotherapy as it helps in shrinking the tumor and alleviating its symptoms.
Targeted drug therapy is a highly effective treatment approach for cancer, wherein specific protein molecules that are involved in the growth of cancer cells are targeted. Targeted therapy regulates cancer growth by blocking various pathways responsible for the growth of cancer cells.
Immunotherapy for throat cancer involves re-engineering the patient’s immune system to make it capable of recognizing the cancer cells and launching an attack against them. Immunotherapy is often coupled with other throat tumor treatment approaches like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Cancer treatments often leave patients exhausted. This exhaustion can delay recovery and negatively impact the quality of life.
Opting for multidisciplinary rehabilitation can help patients regain their strength and return to their routine activities at a faster rate. Rehabilitation is an important part of recovery after cancer treatment.
Depending on the severity of the case, throat cancer patients may need the following rehabilitation services:
Palliative care or supportive care focuses on improving the quality of life for cancer patients in the terminal stages. Radiation therapy, cytoreductive surgery, and pain management are some of the common strategies recommended under palliative care. These approaches help reduce the pain and discomfort caused due to the disease.
Alternative medicine, also known as complementary medicine or Eastern medicine, involves ancient healing practices. Cancer patients may opt for alternative medicine along with the treatments recommended by oncologists, as it may help them relax and show a better response to the treatment.
Acupuncture is a Chinese healing practice that involves inserting needles into specific points of the body. Acupuncture is believed to relieve pain and help cancer patients relax; however, more research is needed in this area.
Massage therapy may improve overall well-being by enhancing blood circulation, relaxing the body muscles, and reducing pain.
Meditation, or focused breathing, is a mind-body practice that may help cancer patients become more mindful of what they are going through. Practicing mindfulness can help alleviate stress and promote mental well-being among cancer patients.
Relaxation techniques, like art therapy, music therapy, and aromatherapy, may help cancer patients by reducing stress and improving overall well-being.
Throat cancer treatment often leads to swallowing difficulties. This is caused by the swelling of the throat and surrounding tissues. Those with swallowing difficulties should consult speech and swallowing therapists for specialized strategies to regain their swallowing abilities. They may also consult oncodieticians for diet plans that include foods that can be eaten without much difficulty.
Surgical procedures, such as neck dissection, can result in scarring or alter the shape of the face. In such cases, doctors may recommend reconstructive surgeries for appearance-related concerns. Patients who have a hard time coping with these changes may also see counselors and support groups for emotional support.
Surgical throat cancer treatment can affect speech, and patients can experience changes in their voice quality and clarity. In such cases, patients can reach out to speech therapists for specialized techniques and exercises that will improve voice quality and articulation or for alternative methods of communication, such as voice prostheses.
Certain throat cancer treatments may lead to breathing difficulties in some patients. Patients who have undergone surgery and radiation therapy are prone to having breathing difficulties, and in such cases, the patients would be supported with assisted breathing.
In some throat cancer patients, radiation therapy can lead to skin hardening or tightening around the neck. This is referred to as radiation fibrosis. Such patients may use moisturizers regularly and see oncodermatologists and physiotherapists who can check their skin condition and recommend appropriate treatment.
Throat cancer diagnosis and treatment need a comprehensive approach. At HCG, we have a dedicated department for the diagnosis, treatment, and management of throat cancer. Each case at HCG is looked at by our multidisciplinary team of experts. Specialists from different disciplines come together to study each case carefully, thoroughly understand the diagnosis, and come up with a personalized care plan for each patient. HCG is backed by leading-edge technologies, renowned specialists, and state-of-the-art facilities, and leaves no stone unturned to deliver the highest quality cancer care.