What is the treatment for throat cancer?
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, transoral laser microsurgery, endoscopic, laser, robotic, and tumor excision surgery, like supracricoid partial laryngectomy to allow more normal function in swallowing and speech without a stoma (a surgically made opening in the neck that allows breathing).
- 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.
Side effects of treatment vary from person to person. However, some of the most common side effects include inflammation of mucous membranes, dry mouth, skin changes (especially after radiotherapy), nausea and vomiting (especially with chemotherapy), fatigue, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, increased sticky phlegm production, loss of appetite, loss of taste, hair loss, and breathing difficulties. In many patients who develop side effects, most effects will last from a few weeks to a few months although in a few patients they may remain constant.