Your throat refers to the tubular muscle that starts behind the nose and ends at the shoulders.
Throat cancer can be in the voice box (the larynx) or the throat (pharynx). Depending on its exact location in those areas, the cancer can have several names, but they all fall under the umbrella of throat cancer.
If this has been a concern for your parent, you and your senior care provider will want to talk to your parent if he is feeling any of the following symptoms or if you have noticed any of these symptoms commonly linked to throat cancer.
- Your parent has developed a cough that isn’t linked to having a cold or virus. Especially if the cough has lasted a long time and doesn’t seem to improve with any home treatment. Sometimes your parent may get so used to a slight cough or tickle that he’s not aware of it. Ask your senior care provider if she has noticed it.
- A change in your parent’s voice, such as not speaking clearly or having a hoarseness that doesn’t go away even with drinking plenty of fluids.
- Your parent is having difficulty swallowing items, especially larger items. Or he may have some pain while swallowing, no matter what it is, even liquids.
- A constant ear pain not related to an ear infection.
- A lump or sore that doesn’t heal in your parent’s mouth or throat could be a sign of cancer.
- A sore throat that doesn’t go away with time or treatment.
- A weight loss that is unexpected and not linked to any different eating habits.
You should make an appointment with your parent’s doctor if he has any of these symptoms or a combination of them. His doctor will check to see if they are cancer-related or possibly caused by something else.
Like all cancers, throat cancer is caused when the cells mutate genetically.
The mutation causes the cells to grow and live long after healthy cells would die off. Then those unhealthy cells bond together to cause a tumor. And while it’s not clear why many throat cancers begin, there are several risk factors that could increase your parent’s chance of developing throat cancer.
- If your parent has had a lifelong addiction to tobacco, including smoking and/or chewing tobacco, it may have caused enough damage to his throat to make it susceptible to throat cancer.
- Excessive alcohol use can also lead to throat cancer.
- Due to all the damage gastroesophageal reflux disease causes to the throat due to the acids it generates, a lifetime battling gastroesophageal reflux disease can unfortunately also lead to throat cancer.
- If your parent worked in an industry where he was continually exposed to toxic substances at work, his throat might have sustained permanent damage as he breathed those chemicals in.
- Some viral infections, including human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus, have been shown to lead to throat cancer.
- A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables may prevent your parent’s body from developing the necessary antioxidants to fight off the abnormal cells when they begin to develop.
As with most cancers, early detection leads to the highest success rate of treatment.
If your parent is showing any of the symptoms and has a history of being exposed to any of the contributing risk factors, a doctor appointment should be made for the near future.