How to Check for Throat Cancer Symptoms. Throat cancer is a general term often used to describe squamous cell carcinomas that occur in the skin and mucous membranes of the throat and neck. The disease can affect the vocal cords, the voice box (larynx) or the esophagus. Knowing what symptoms to check for is part of a proactive approach to deterring the development of throat cancer.
Assess Your Risk for Throat Cancer
Be aware that the incidence of throat cancer increases after age 50. The disease is 10 times more common in men than women. Further, 50 percent more African-American men in the US are diagnosed with throat cancer than Caucasian men.
Consider your lifestyle. Smoking or other use of tobacco products increases your risk for throat cancer, as does the excessive consumption of alcohol.
Know the Symptoms of Throat Cancer
Be aware. Pay close attention to a nagging cough, especially if it is producing blood.
Evaluate your health. If you have a sore throat for more than two weeks, have chronic neck pain or difficulty swallowing or a hoarse voice for an extended period of time, contact a doctor.
Pay attention to your breathing. Producing high-pitched or squeaky noises when breathing is not normal.
Get Professional Screening for Throat Cancer
Ask your physician to perform a laryngoscopy, a simple examination of the throat with a lighted miniature camera.
Consult with your physician about a CT scan or MRI of the neck or cranium if a tumor or symptoms of throat cancer are present. These tests can often determine if the carcinoma has expanded to the lymph nodes of the neck.
Be prepared to have a biopsy analysis of throat tissue, especially if a lump has appeared on the side of your neck or if blood is found in the sputum.
If throat cancer is confirmed and surgery is required, ask your doctor about the extent of the surgery and whether reconstruction will be necessary afterward.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 90 percent of throat cancer patients will enjoy a full recovery, providing the disease is detected early. That's why it's important to periodically check for throat cancer symptoms, especially if you may be at high risk. A diagnosis of throat cancer can lead to feelings of helplessness or depression. Ask you doctor about local support groups or therapists who can help.