Throat Cancer - Head And Neck Cancer

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Throat Cancer - Head And Neck Cancer
Throat Cancer - Head And Neck Cancer
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Video: Treatments for Head and Neck Cancer (Squamous Carcinoma Tumor) 2023, February

Throat cancer

Pharyngeal cancer is a malignant tumor in the throat and belongs to the group of head and neck tumors. Smoking and alcohol consumption are the main risk factors. Certain viruses (HPV) can also be involved. Mostly people over 60 are affected - men earlier and more often than women. The healing rates and life expectancy are very different from person to person.


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  • What are the causes of throat cancer?
  • What are the symptoms of throat cancer?
  • How is the diagnosis made?
  • How is throat cancer treated?
  • Whom can I ask?
  • How are the costs going to be covered?

What are the causes of throat cancer?

Pharyngeal tumors usually originate in the mucous membrane and belong to the so-called squamous cell carcinoma. The exact cause of throat cancer is not known. Risk factors for developing cancer of the throat include:

  • Smoke,
  • high alcohol consumption,
  • Viral infections (especially HPV, EBV),
  • weakened immune system,
  • frequent reflux of acidic gastric juice into the esophagus,
  • regular contact with certain pollutants (e.g. asbestos, chrome or nickel containing paints and varnishes),
  • one-sided, meat-rich, low-vitamin diet.

Throat cancer usually spreads early into neighboring tissue structures and via the lymphatic system and forms secondary tumors (metastases) in the cervical lymph nodes.

What are the symptoms of throat cancer?

The first symptoms of throat cancer are often enlarged, non-painful cervical lymph nodes. The other complaints depend on the affected section in the throat.

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma

The upper part of the throat, the so-called nasopharynx, is affected. Possible symptoms, especially in advanced stages, include:

  • obstructed nasal breathing,
  • recurrent nosebleeds
  • Fluid behind the eardrum (tympanic effusion) and otitis media,
  • A headache,
  • Deficiency symptoms due to paralysis of certain cranial nerves.

Oropharyngeal carcinoma

The visible area of ​​the throat behind the oral cavity (oropharynx) is affected. Possible symptoms, especially in advanced stages, include:

  • Sore throat that can reach the ear,
  • Difficulties swallowing,
  • Bad breath.

Hypopharyngeal carcinoma

The lowest part of the throat at the level of the larynx (hypopharynx) is affected. Possible symptoms, especially in advanced stages, include:

  • Sore throat,
  • Hoarseness,
  • Difficulties swallowing,
  • Sputum with admixture of blood
  • Shortness of breath.

How is the diagnosis made?

After an anamnesis, the nasopharynx is examined with the naked eye and endoscopically. A tissue sample is taken. In addition, imaging methods such as ultrasound, computed tomography or magnetic resonance tomography can determine the extent to which the tumor has already spread and metastases.

How is throat cancer treated?

The earlier treatment begins, the better the prospect of a cure in pharyngeal cancer. If throat cancer is not yet too advanced, cancer treatment aims to cure it. In addition, the functions in the head and neck area should be preserved as far as possible. The following options are available:

  • Operation: The aim is to surgically remove tumors as completely as possible. This is possible, for example, by using a laser. Since tumors in the throat often cause metastases to spread to the cervical lymph nodes at an early stage, these are usually removed as part of the operation (neck dissection).
  • Radiotherapy or combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy: These can be used in addition to or instead of an operation if the tumor is more advanced or an operation would be too stressful.
  • Targeted therapy: Modern drugs (e.g. monoclonal antibodies such as cetuximab) target specific cell structures of the tumor tissue in order to destroy it or at least to slow down growth.
  • Plastic reconstruction: In advanced cases with swallowing disorders or speech problems, damaged or removed structures can be surgically replaced. This allows functions such as speaking, chewing or swallowing to be restored to a large extent - often with speech therapy support.
  • Psychological support: can support those affected in dealing with the illness and the associated problems, complaints and impairments.

Throat cancer can be associated with disease or treatment-related complications. Pharyngeal cancer can cause serious breathing and speech disorders in particular. Other possible complications of throat cancer are disorders with chewing and swallowing and the resulting problems with eating. These can significantly reduce the quality of life.

Rehabilitation & aftercare

Rehabilitation can follow immediately or promptly after the treatment is completed. There are special aftercare clinics that are familiar with both the physical and psychological problems of cancer patients. For more information, see Rehabilitation & Cure.

After the end of the treatment, regular check-ups are necessary in order to detect the occurrence of recurrences at an early stage and treat them accordingly.

Whom can I ask?

In the case of complaints in the throat area, you should consult a specialist in ear, nose and throat medicine.

How are the costs going to be covered?

All necessary and appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic measures are taken over by the health insurance carriers. For certain services (e.g. medication, inpatient stays), patient co-payments are provided. Your doctor or the outpatient clinic will generally settle accounts directly with your health insurance provider. However, you may have to pay a deductible with certain health insurance providers (BVAEB, SVS, SVS, BVAEB).

The costs will not be charged directly if you use a doctor of your choice (ie doctor without a health insurance contract) or a private outpatient clinic. For more information, see Costs and Deductibles.

When hospitalization is required

Hospitalization may sometimes be required for treatment. The hospital costs are billed for. The patient has to pay a daily contribution to the costs. Further medication treatment at home takes place by prescription by the general practitioner or specialist.

For more information, see What does a hospital stay cost?

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