Throat cancer, like other cancers, has a better prognosis when found in the early stages. In those cases, it is almost always curable. Conversely, if the tumor is already very large, or has spread outside of the head and neck, it becomes incurable.
Throat cancer complications have to do with the type of tumor and its location, with the type of treatment applied, or with rehabilitation after the treatment was applied.
Although the complications associated with throat cancer can cause many discomforts, almost all of them are temporary and treatable. It does require, of course, constant monitoring so that these difficulties do not escalate.
When you talk about throat cancer, you are actually talking about many types of cancers. Basically this concept brings together cancerous conditions that occur in the pharynx or larynx, as pointed out by experts from the Spanish Association Against Cancer.
There are different types of throat cancer, depending on where the disease occurs. These are as follows:
- Nasopharyngeal. Behind the nose.
- Oropharyngeal Behind the mouth, in the area of the tonsils.
- Hypopharyngeal or laryngopharyngeal. In the lower part of the throat, between the esophagus and the windpipe.
- Of glottis. It starts at the vocal cords.
- Of supraglottis. In the upper part of the larynx and epiglottis.
- From subglottis. Below the vocal cords, at the bottom of the larynx.
Throat cancer complications have to do, first of all, with the point where it takes place.
Main complications of throat cancer
The main complication of nasopharyngeal cancer is the migration of cancer cells to nearby areas. This occurs in most cases and mainly affects the lymph nodes in the neck.
In oropharyngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer, the main complication has to do with the appearance of speech disorders and breathing difficulties. It is also common to have difficulties swallowing food, which can affect nutrition.
The main complication of cancer of the glottis, supraglottis and subglottis, known generically as laryngeal cancer , is the fact that most patients will require a complete removal of the larynx, or total laryngectomy. This removal causes the digestive tract and the respiratory tract to separate. Therefore, once recovery is complete, the patient will feed through the mouth, but will have to breathe through a hole in the neck, or tracheostomy.
Complications during treatment
Throat cancer treatment can lead to a number of direct or indirect effects. Sometimes these are acute, or short-term, or chronic, or long-term. Such effects are caused by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
The most common complications associated with chemotherapy are: bleeding in the mouth and eventual nerve damage. Radiation therapy, for its part, tends to have more consequences. Between them:
- Formation of fibrous tissue in the mouth, or fibrosis.
- Gum disease and tooth decay.
- Deterioration in the tissue, bone, or muscle that receives radiation.
Both radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause the mucous membranes of the mouth to become inflamed. They can also cause infections, which can spread to other areas of the body. Likewise, it is common for them to cause dry mouth, changes in the sense of taste and pain.
Complications during rehabilitation
Once treatment for throat cancer has been completed, the main complication is for the disease to recur. This is most likely to occur within two to three years after the end of treatment. That is why it is very important to continue with the medical control and monitoring of the thyroid gland. In the same way, the physiotherapeutic work necessary to fully recover normal speech and the ability to swallow food without problem. Nutritional control is decisive.
Many people who have had throat cancer will need psychological help. The difficulties to speak, mainly, could give rise to problems of isolation, anxiety and depression. Hence the importance of professional support.