Throat Cancer‘Throat Cancer’ as is commonly referred to comprises cancer of the Larynx (voice box) and cancer of the Hypopharynx (upper part of the swallowing tube). This is a common cancer in our country and constitutes about 12% of all cancers. Around 80,000 throat cancers are newlydiagnosed every year in our country.
Majority of these cancers are caused by the use of tobacco in various forms. While smoking usually results in an increased incidence of Larynx cancer, chewing tobacco causes an increase in the incidence of Hypopharyngeal cancers. In those who do not chew or smoke tobacco, the cause is believed to be genetic.
The usual symptoms of these cancers are:
1. Persisting sore throat.
2. Hoarseness of voice.
3. Difficulty and pain in swallowing.
4. Enlarged glands in the neck.If any of these symptoms last for more than 3 weeks, it is necessary to have cancer ruled out especially in those habituated to tobacco.
These cancers are highly curable in the early stages. Even in the later stages, cancer of the Larynx, specially, still has a high percentage of cure with proper treatment. Treatment consists of Surgery, Radiation therapy or a combination of both. Sometimes, chemotherapy is also added where the cancer is more advanced. In the early stages, surgery only involves removal of a part of the voice box and voice can be preserved. However, in more advanced stages, the entire larynx has to be removed in a procedure called Total Laryngectomy. Following total Laryngectomy, normal speech is lost. However, with developments which have taken place recently it is now possible for total Laryngectomy patients to speak by the insertion of a voice prosthesis at the time of surgery or later. All patients who undergo Laryngectomy at the Apollo Cancer Institute are now encouraged to have this prosthesis inserted and get back their speech. Radiation therapy is an alternative to surgery. It is primarily used when the cancer in the throat is at an early stage. It may also be used in more advanced cases where the patient is not willing for total laryngectomy or is unfit for the surgery. New trials are in progress, where in radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy to give better results in patients with advanced disease. Surgery is the only treatment in patients who have failed radiation therapy.
A laryngectomee is a person who has undergone Laryngectomy. In order to get all these people together towards a common goal, a Laryngectomee Society has been started at the Apollo Cancer Institute, where laryngectomees and their relatives meet once in a month and to interact socially. Laryngectomees try out their voices, discuss, try to find solutions to each other’s problems, give and receive encouragement. The society meets on the 2nd Saturday of every month at 11 a.m., at Apollo Cancer Institute. A Dietician, Physiotherapist & Medical Social Worker also participatein order to facilitate the rehab of these members.