Awareness of the throat cancer symptoms is critical for early detection and treatment. The symptoms of throat cancer depend on the specific part of the throat that is affected and its stages.
Early symptoms of throat cancer include:
Hoarseness is sudden, marked, and easily detectable by self-assessment. Moreover, a lump in the throat region is also visible right from the early stages and can be detected before it develops into a painful swelling of the throat
The most crucial and difficult part of throat cancer detection based on early symptoms is the similarity of these symptoms to various other common and easily curable throat diseases, such as bacterial or viral infections. Early detection of throat cancer therefore lies in the persistence of these symptoms, despite treatment efforts, beyond 3 weeks.
The symptoms of throat cancer worsen as the cancer advances further, affecting the surrounding tissues. This includes aggravation of the early symptoms, typical advanced cancer symptoms and symptoms due to throat cancer related ailments.
Aggravation of early symptoms such as persistent hoarseness of voice and difficulty in voice production may lead to permanent changes in voice, or at times, loss of voice function. The initial pain during swallowing liquid or solid food may develop into unbearable pain and difficulty swallowing.
Typical advanced throat cancer symptoms include:
Symptoms due to throat cancer-related ailments occur primarily due to altered function of the associated and nearby glands, including:
As discussed, the symptoms of throat cancer are at times specific to the part of the throat afflicted. For example, in laryngeal throat cancers that begin on the vocal cords, hoarseness or a change in voice is a marked early symptom. Throat cancer originating in the epiglottis causes swallowing and breathing difficulties from the earliest stages. For throat cancer that originates in the tonsils, swelling in the neck region is evident from the early stages.
Recent research has identified a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that triggers cancer mutations in cells. Throat cancer due to HPV mutations have been mostly detected in tonsils and at back of the tongue. Symptoms due to HPV include:
More than eighty percent of the throat cancers detected in the US seem to have their origin in HPV infections as evidenced by research. Since, HPV has been found in saliva, semen, and genital secretions, unsafe sexual practice has been recently recognized as a potential risk factor for throat cancer.
Most of the early symptoms of throat cancer are similar to those of various other common and curable throat conditions, such as bacterial or viral infections. This aspect of throat cancer symptoms can make self-assessment quite difficult.
It is therefore advisable to consult a doctor for cancer detection if you experience the aforementioned symptoms persisting over a period beyond 3 weeks, despite treatment efforts.