Rakesh Roshan, former actor, producer and director of blockbuster Bollywood movies such as ‘Kaho na pyar hai…” and “Koi Mil Gaya”, has just been diagnosed with early stage squamous cell carcinoma of the throat.
Cancer originating from the flat (squamous) cells lining the throat is known as Squamous cell carcinoma. It is a type or part of Head and Neck cancer.
Throat cancer refers to cancer of the pharynx including the tonsils and oropharynx or larynx i.e., the voice box and the vocal cords. Throat cancer is often classified into pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer.
The two primary types of throat cancer are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of throat cancer starts in the flat cells lining the throat. It is the most common type of throat cancer.
- Adenocarcinoma: This type of throat cancer originates in the glandular cells and is less common.
TWO CATEGORIES OF THROAT CANCER ARE:
Pharyngeal cancer. This cancer develops in the pharynx, which is the hollow tube between your nose to the top of your windpipe, including the Nasopharynx, Oropharynx and the Hypopharynx.
Laryngeal cancer. This cancer can develop anywhere in the larynx, which includes your voice box and vocal cords.
What are the stages of throat cancer?
Initial Stage: When the tumour is small or localized, and is curable with surgery and/or radiation.
Stage 1: This is an early stage, when the tumour is less than 2 cms and the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 2: When the cancer is progressing and the tumour might have grown in size upto 4 cms but has not yet infilitrated into the lymph nodes.
Stage 3: If the tumor has grown larger than 4 cms, with or without spreading to the lymph nodes.
Stage 4: This is the most advanced stage, where the tumour might have spread to:
- nearby areas such as the thyroid, oesophagus, mouth, jaw, wind pipe etc.
- one or more lymph nodes on the same side of the neck or a lymph node on the opposite side
- distant parts of the body such as the lungs
WHO GETS THROAT CANCER?
Men are more likely to develop throat cancer than women and age is a factor too. Most of the cases are people over the age of 65.
Certain lifestyle habits and other factors increase the risk of developing cancer of the throat:
smoking, chewing tobacco
excessive alcohol consumption
exposure to asbestos, paint fumes, chemicals used in the petroleum, plastics and textile industries
chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Throat cancer is also associated with certain types of human papillomavirus infections (HPV).
Throat cancer has also been linked to other types of cancers such as oesophageal, lung, or bladder cancer. This may be because these cancers have some of the same risk factors.
Some signs and symptoms of throat cancer include:
- changes in your voice, such as hoarseness or unclear speech
- a persistent cough
- trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
- weight loss
- a sore throat
- constant need to clear your throat
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck, a lump
- ear pain
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR THROAT CANCER?
Many cancers of the head and neck can be cured, especially if they are found early. Treatment varies according to the type, location, and extent of the cancer, and often includes a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Surgery is fundamental to most treatment protocols, especially in early stage cancer. Robotic surgery (TORS) is possible in stage 1 & 2 throat cancer. Other surgeries like Laryngectomy, Pharyngectomy and Neck Dissection may be performed in patients with stage 4 cancer or when radiation therapy has failed to control it.