Actor Michael Douglas, 65 has confirmed that doctors have recently discovered a mass (or tumor) in his throat, and has been diagnosed with throat cancer. He will undergo 8 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation as treatment for the tumor. Douglas told People magazine, “I am very optimistic.” Douglas who is married to actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is a smoker as is his wife. Although smoking certainly increases the risk of throat cancer, there are individuals who have never smoked in their life that has developed throat cancer. I know several people personally in this unfortunate predicament. So, what are the symptoms, risk factor, and prognosis of throat cancer? These questions are the subject of this article.
Throat cancer refers to tumors that occur in the pharynx, larynx or (voice box) and the tonsils. When the cells in your throat develop mutations, they cause cells to begin to grow out of control and they live on even after healthy cells die. The result of these accumulating cells can develop into throat cancer. Though the cause for these mutations are not known as of yet, researchers have identified some risk factors you should be aware of.
Symptoms of throat cancer include: a persistent cough, coughing up blood, a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, a lump or sore that doesn’t heal, a sore throat, weight loss, neck pain and a few others, according to the Mayo Clinic. These symptoms in the throat are not necessarily specific to throat cancer, therefore doctors will generally rule out other complications first before researching the cancer possibility. It is recommended that you consult a doctor if any of these symptoms occur and don’t go away after a week or two.
The number one Risk Factor that increases your probability of getting throat cancer is the use of Tobacco, including smoking and chewing. Other risk factors include poor dental hygiene, abuse of alcohol, a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables, the (HPV) virus and exposure to asbestos.
Prognosis is a frightening term that no one wants to hear or deal with, but educating yourself as much as possible about your type of cancer will empower you to face your prognosis and to be proactive and optimistic about receiving treatment. Fear of the unknown is always worse than having an understanding of what you are facing. It gives you a “target” to aim at and defeat!
The prognosis for and individual having throat cancer is based on several factors including age, general overall health, and whether or not the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis. If caught early and the tumor is small enough, surgery and radiation may be an option. However, if the cancer has spread to surrounding lymph nodes in the neck, a substantial amount of chemotherapy and/or radiation may be necessary to destroy the tumor. Throat cancers, if caught early can be cured in 90% of patients. If your throat cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the surrounding neck area, the prognosis of a cure drops to 50-60%. If the throat cancer has metastasized outside of the neck and throat area into other parts of the body, the cancer is considered not curable and the goal at that point is to maintain quality and longevity of life for as long as possible.
Certainly, I wish Michael Douglas the best during his treatment and pray for his full recovery.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered in any way a professional medical opinion. Consult a physician if you have any indication of symptoms mentioned in this article.
Throat cancer – MayoClinic.com
Cancer – throat or larynx: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia