Throat cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), or tonsils. It usually develops in the flat cells that line the throat and voice box, and it can occur in different areas of the throat, such as the oropharynx, hypopharynx, or nasopharynx. The most common type of throat cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which develops in the cells that line the throat and voice box.
How it is performed
The type of throat cancer surgery performed depends on the location and extent of the cancer. Here are some of the most common surgical procedures used to treat throat cancer:
- Transoral surgery: This minimally invasive procedure involves removing the cancerous tissue through the mouth using an endoscope or robotic surgery.
- Partial laryngectomy: This procedure involves removing a portion of the larynx (voice box) while preserving the ability to speak.
- Total laryngectomy: This procedure involves removing the entire larynx, which requires creating a stoma (opening) in the neck for breathing.
- Pharyngectomy: This procedure involves removing a portion of the pharynx (throat) and may also involve removal of the larynx or esophagus, depending on the location and extent of the cancer.
- Neck dissection: This procedure involves removing lymph nodes and other tissues from the neck to check for the spread of cancer cells.
Throat cancer surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia and may require a hospital stay of several days.
Why is the surgery done
The goals of throat cancer surgery are to remove as much of the cancer as possible, prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, and preserve as much of the patient's ability to speak, swallow, and breathe as possible. Throat cancer surgery is done to remove cancerous tissue from the throat, voice box, or tonsils. The surgery is typically recommended when the cancer is localized and has not spread to other parts of the body. Surgery may also be used in combination with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to treat more advanced cancers.Throat cancer surgery may also be recommended as a palliative treatment to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for patients with advanced cancer that cannot be cured.
What to expect post surgery
After a throat cancer surgery, patients can expect a recovery period of several weeks to months, depending on the extent of the surgery and the individual's overall health. Here are some common things to expect after a throat cancer surgery:
- Sore throat and difficulty swallowing for a period of time after the surgery
- Speech and voice changes due to swelling or scarring in the throat or vocal cords.
- Some types of throat cancer surgery, such as a total laryngectomy, require the creation of a stoma (opening) in the neck for breathing and may lead to breathing difficulties
- Patients will need to attend regular follow-up appointments with their healthcare team to monitor their recovery and check for any signs of recurrence. Additional treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, may also be recommended after the surgery.
- A throat cancer diagnosis and surgery can be emotionally challenging and will need emotional support from everyone around.
Risks associated with the surgery
As with any surgery, there are risks associated with throat cancer surgery. Some of the potential risks include:
- There is a risk of bleeding during or after the surgery
- Any surgical procedure carries a risk of infection.
- Throat cancer surgery may require the removal of nearby tissues, such as the vocal cords, which can affect speech or breathing.
- Swelling and inflammation are common after throat cancer surgery
- Risk of complications related to anesthesia, such as allergic reactions, breathing difficulties, or heart problems.
- Depending on the extent of the surgery, patients may experience changes in their speech or ability to swallow.
- Blood clots