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Throat Cancers

Your throat, also called the pharynx, is the tube through which you swallow. It is broken down into three main sections, all of which can develop cancer: 

  • the upper section behind the nose called the nasopharynx, causing nasopharyngeal cancer
  • the oropharynx, the middle section behind the mouth, causing oropharyngeal cancer
  • the bottom section connecting the pharynx and the voice box, called the hypopharynx, causing hypopharyngeal cancer

Most cases of throat cancer are found in the oropharynx. Throat cancer is very uncommon in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, only about 2,000 to 4,000 cancers will start in the hypopharynx. 

Most throat cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. The lining of the throat is made up of squamous cells. Cancer develops when some squamous cells mutate and become abnormal.

Throat Cancer Symptoms

Like many head and neck cancers, the signs to watch for include:

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Weight loss
  • A lump or mass in the neck (because the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes)

Throat Cancer Risk Factors

Doctors aren’t sure what causes the mutation that causes throat cancer. But doctors have identified factors that may increase your risk. Factors that can increase your risk of throat cancer include:

  • Tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco
  • Alcohol use
  • Exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV) — a growing risk factor
  • A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Excess body weight
  • Sex assigned at birth— about five times more common in males than females

Throat Cancer Treatment

Knowing the stage of your throat cancer helps determine your treatment options. Treatments vary also due to the location of the cancer, the type of cells involved, whether the cells show the HPV infections, your overall health and your preferences.

Treatment options include:

Throat cancer treatments often cause complications that may require follow-up care or rehabilitation after treatment to help with eating or swallowing difficulties, care of a surgical opening in your throat, pain and stiffness in your neck and speech problems.

Medical Team

Our physicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of Head and Neck Cancers.

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Summa Health offers convenient locations in the greater Akron area.


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If your situation is an emergency, call 911.