Larynx Cancer (cont.)

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How is throat cancer staging determined?

Throat cancer staging is determined by a TNM staging system. The system was developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and is presented below.

AJCC Cancer Staging

  • T stands for tumor (how far it has spread within the larynx or pharynx and to nearby tissues).
  • N describes whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • M stands for metastasis (spread of the cancer) to distant organs.

All of this information is combined to arrive at a disease stage. After stage 0 (which is carcinoma in situ or cancer that has not grown beyond the cells lining the throat), stages are labeled using Roman numerals from I through IV (that is, 1 through 4). The smaller the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, for example stage IV, indicates a more serious stage of the disease.

What kinds of specialists treat throat cancer?

Most institutions take a team approach to each individual with throat cancer. In general, depending upon the extent of the individual's cancer (see, TMN system above), a person's team of specialists may include the following:

  • Oncologists
  • Surgeons
  • Plastic surgeons
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Swallowing experts
  • Dentists
  • Speech pathologists
  • Dietitians
  • Therapists (physical, occupational, and speech)

The involvement of many specialists has been found to provide an individual with the best chance of treating and/or surviving the various types of throat cancers and reducing symptoms. These specialists also can identify local support groups that can help the patient and family members cope with the lifestyle changes needed to live well with the disease.

What is the treatment for throat cancer?

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The treatment for throat cancer depends upon the extent and seriousness of the disease. As stated by the MD Anderson Cancer Center and others, treatment is tailored to the individual to provide him or her with the best chance for a successful outcome. Treatment strives to preserve the patient's ability to eat, speak, and live a normal healthy life. Treatment plans for throat cancers usually include one or more of the following techniques: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, proton therapy, targeted therapies, and possibly participation in throat cancer clinical trials. Brief descriptions of the major components for throat cancer therapy are as follows:

  • Surgery: There are many types of surgery for throat cancer including minimally invasive, endoscopic, laser, robotic, and tumor excision to allow normal function in swallowing and speech.
  • Chemotherapy: These are drugs used to shrink tumors and/or kill cancer cells after surgery and/or radiation treatment. Chemotherapy is often used in combination with other therapies.
  • Radiation therapy: Brachytherapy involves placement of radioactive beads close to a tumor. 3-D radiation beam therapy and intensity-modulated radiotherapy may be tailored to the specific shape of the tumor.
  • Proton therapy: This radiation doses using pencil beam technology directed at the tumor while preserving nearby healthy tissue.
  • Targeted therapies: These drugs are used to stop the growth of cancer cells by interfering with proteins and/or other receptors on cancer cells.
  • Cancer clinical trials: This involves the use of experimental drugs or other methods that may show promise in survival and/or reduction in clinical symptoms.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2015

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