The symptoms of throat cancer vary from patient to patient. Some patients may not experience any symptoms in the early stages and will only start experiencing symptoms once the disease advances.
That said, some patients do experience early symptoms, and it is important for these symptoms to not be ignored and to be checked by a doctor.
The following are the most common symptoms of throat cancer:
Coughing is one of the early signs of throat cancer. As one of the starting symptoms of throat cancer, a cough can occur for various reasons: the tumor may be blocking the airway, it may be causing irritation or inflammation and mucus production, or it may have spread to the lungs. In some cases, the patients may also cough up blood (hemoptysis).
That said, a cough could be a symptom of other less-severe throat problems like infection, and hence, one should see a doctor for a conclusive diagnosis.
In patients with throat cancer, the voice may sound strained, raspy, or rough. They may also have difficulty speaking, such as having a slur or not being able to pronounce some words. Change in voice is one of the common throat tumor symptoms.
Difficulty swallowing is one of the common signs of throat cancer. Someone suspected of having throat cancer may experience a burning sensation and feel like they have something stuck in their throat.
A sore throat that does not go away with medication is one of the first-stage throat cancer symptoms. This discomfort could either be localized or be present throughout the throat. Throat cancer forms in the tissues of the throat and causes irritation and inflammation. This causes a sore throat.
It is one of the first symptoms of throat cancer, and it is often confused as a symptom of many other less severe throat conditions. If a sore throat lasts for more than two weeks, it must be tested.
A high-pitched whistling noise when breathing is another sign of the presence of a tumor in the throat. When the tumor or the inflammation caused by the tumor narrows the airways, patients start wheezing.
Ear pain is another symptom of throat cancer. The nerves of the throat and ears are connected, and this causes referred pain. Other possible reasons why throat cancer patients experience ear pain include the inflammation caused by the throat tumor and the metastasis of cancer to nearby lymph nodes.
Throat cancer can cause the lymph nodes to enlarge. These enlarged lymph nodes are tender to touch and can be painful.
Patients with throat cancer may often feel the need to clear their throat due to the persistent sensation of something stuck in their treatment.
Patients suspected of having throat cancer may also experience severe weight loss. When there is significant weight loss that is unintentional, one must see a doctor. This is one of the end-stage throat cancer symptoms.
Being aware of first-stage throat cancer symptoms and end-stage throat cancer symptoms can aid timely detection and treatment of throat cancer.
We still do not know what exactly causes throat cancer. However, we do know that there are a few factors that increase the risk of throat cancer. Having these risk factors does not necessarily guarantee a cancer diagnosis. The following are the important risk factors for throat cancer.
Many studies have found a strong association between HPV and throat cancer. HPV, or Human papillomavirus, refers to a form of sexually transmitted infection. When it becomes chronic, HPV may lead to the formation of various forms of cancer, namely oropharyngeal cancer, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, anal cancer, and penile cancer. HPV infection is usually transmitted through oral sex.
HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer or throat cancer occurs when HPV infects the cells present in the back of the throat, causes mutations in them, and triggers the formation of a tumor in the throat. In most cases, the HPV infection clears up by itself. However, in some cases, the infection persists and leads to cancer formation.
The risk of HPV-associated throat cancer is high among those who consume tobacco and alcohol. Its likelihood is also high among those with a compromised immune system. Common HPV-throat cancer symptoms include sore throat, cough, hoarseness, swollen lymph nodes, earache, etc.
In the early stages, throat cancer is localized and can be treated more effectively. However, as the disease progresses, it spreads to nearby and distant organs and is referred to as metastatic throat cancer. The following are the metastatic or end-stage throat cancer symptoms:
Often, throat cancer spreads to the lungs, and when this happens, patients start having trouble breathing and coughing up blood.
Throat cancer may also spread to bones in advanced stages. Secondary bone cancer occurring this way can cause bone or joint pain and fractures in cancer patients.
There are many reasons why one should know about the symptoms of early-stage cancer. Being mindful of these symptoms and promptly seeing a doctor can support early diagnosis and timely treatment. Early diagnosis also helps patients with multiple treatment options. Also, early-stage cancers have much better survival rates when compared to advanced-stage cancers. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the various symptoms of first-stage cancer and consult a doctor when they find something not normal.
Those experiencing persistent symptoms that may indicate kidney cancer should consider seeing a doctor for a proper medical evaluation and prompt medical attention.