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Throat Cancer (Pharyngeal Cancer)

Cancer that forms in tissues of the pharynx (the hollow tube inside the neck that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the windpipe and esophagus). Cancer of the larynx (voice box) may also be included as a type of throat cancer.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Cancer of the Throat and Larynx

Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the nasopharynx (upper part of the throat behind the nose)....Read more about Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Oropharyngeal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth, including the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils)....Read more about Oropharyngeal Cancer

Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the hypopharynx (the bottom part of the throat)....Read more about Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Laryngeal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the larynx (area of the throat that contains the vocal cords and is used for breathing, swallowing, and talking)....Read more about Laryngeal Cancer

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Venous Thromboembolism: Reducing the Risk of Venous Thromboembolism (Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism) in Patients Admitted to Hospital

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a term used to include the formation of a blood clot (a thrombus) in a vein which may dislodge from its site of origin to travel in the blood, a phenomenon called embolism. A thrombus most commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs; this is called deep vein thrombosis. A dislodged thrombus that travels to the lungs is known as a pulmonary embolism.

Chemotherapy for mouth and throat cancer

Oral cavity (mouth) cancer is usually detected earlier and treated with surgery and radiotherapy. Oropharyngeal (throat) cancer may be advanced when it is found and is treated with radiotherapy. Both treatments may be associated with disfigurement and decreased ability to eat, drink and talk. Treatment with chemotherapy (drugs which kill cancer cells), in addition to radiotherapy (and surgery where possible) offers prolonged survival. Chemotherapy given at the same time as radiotherapy, is more effective than chemotherapy given before radiotherapy, and may reduce the need for surgery. The improvement in overall survival with the use of chemotherapy is estimated to be between 8% and 22%. The additional side effects of combined chemoradiotherapy (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hair loss, and infections) were not measured.

Surgical interventions for the treatment of oral cavity (mouth) and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers

The studies in this review focused on patients with cancers in the oral cavity. These studies have not shown that surgery to remove the lymph nodes in the neck, which appear to be cancer‐free, at the same time as the cancer is removed is associated with longer survival, but there is evidence that early neck surgery reduces recurrence of the cancer. Neither is there evidence that removal of all the lymph nodes in the neck results in longer survival compared to selective surgical removal of affected lymph nodes. Although removal of lymph nodes from the neck is associated with significant adverse effects related to appearance and functions such as eating, drinking and speaking, the studies in this review did not measure quality of life.

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Summaries for consumers

Chemotherapy for mouth and throat cancer

Oral cavity (mouth) cancer is usually detected earlier and treated with surgery and radiotherapy. Oropharyngeal (throat) cancer may be advanced when it is found and is treated with radiotherapy. Both treatments may be associated with disfigurement and decreased ability to eat, drink and talk. Treatment with chemotherapy (drugs which kill cancer cells), in addition to radiotherapy (and surgery where possible) offers prolonged survival. Chemotherapy given at the same time as radiotherapy, is more effective than chemotherapy given before radiotherapy, and may reduce the need for surgery. The improvement in overall survival with the use of chemotherapy is estimated to be between 8% and 22%. The additional side effects of combined chemoradiotherapy (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hair loss, and infections) were not measured.

Surgical interventions for the treatment of oral cavity (mouth) and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers

The studies in this review focused on patients with cancers in the oral cavity. These studies have not shown that surgery to remove the lymph nodes in the neck, which appear to be cancer‐free, at the same time as the cancer is removed is associated with longer survival, but there is evidence that early neck surgery reduces recurrence of the cancer. Neither is there evidence that removal of all the lymph nodes in the neck results in longer survival compared to selective surgical removal of affected lymph nodes. Although removal of lymph nodes from the neck is associated with significant adverse effects related to appearance and functions such as eating, drinking and speaking, the studies in this review did not measure quality of life.

Medical treatments for throat cancer (oropharyngeal cancer) that is associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection

Recent studies suggest a connection between a virus (human papillomavirus) and throat cancer (oropharyngeal cancer) in some patients. This review has been conducted to assess potential new treatments that have emerged as a result of this information.

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Terms to know

Esophagus
The muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach.
Hypopharynx
The bottom part of the throat.
Nasopharynx
The upper part of the throat behind the nose. An opening on each side of the nasopharynx leads into the ear.
Oropharynx
The part of the throat at the back of the mouth behind the oral cavity.
Throat (Pharynx)
The hollow tube inside the neck that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes to the stomach).
Voice Box (Larynx)
The area of the throat containing the vocal cords and used for breathing, swallowing, and talking. Also called voice box.
Windpipe (Trachea)
The airway that leads from the larynx (voice box) to the bronchi (large airways that lead to the lungs). Also called windpipe.

More about Throat Cancer

Photo of an adult

Also called: Malignant tumour of the pharynx, Cancer of the pharynx, Malignant tumor of the pharynx

Other terms to know: See all 7
Esophagus, Hypopharynx, Nasopharynx

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