Get Treatment For Pharyngeal Cancer

Great Surgical Care at Marina del Rey Hospital

Why Choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for Pharyngeal Cancer Treatment?

By the state-of-the-art technology our hospital provides, you can undergo surgery for pharyngeal cancer with minimal postoperative risks. Furthermore, our medical professionals specialize in cancer treatment and will thoroughly assess your health to design the most effective treatment plan for your pharyngeal cancer. Therefore, if you struggle with this malignant disease, we strongly encourage you to choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, as you will receive the treatment you need in a warm and compassionate environment.

The pharynx is a hollow tube starting behind the nose, continuing down the neck, and ending into the top of the windpipe and esophagus. It has three portions: the nasopharynx, the oropharynx, and the hypopharynx.

Cancer can arise from any of these portions, and malignant cells begin growing in the tissue that lines the pharynx. Pharyngeal cancer is a variety of throat cancer diagnosed in approximately 20,000 people in the United States every year.

The treatment you will receive for pharyngeal cancer will depend on the size and location of the tumor, whether cancer has spread to adjacent parts of the body, your age, your general health, and your preferences. However, most people who struggle with this disease receive chemotherapy in combination with radiotherapy, which is a very effective treatment for keeping cancer under control. Surgery is necessary only if the malignant tumor returns following treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

When a patient receives chemotherapy after surgery, the treatment aims to destroy the remaining malignant cells in the pharynx. Nevertheless, in people with advanced pharyngeal cancer, chemotherapy will be recommended as a palliative treatment since they are not good candidates for surgery, as their cancer has spread beyond control. The most effective chemotherapy drugs for pharyngeal cancer, which come in the form of a pill or injection, are the following:

  • cisplatin
  • fluorouracil
  • capecitabine
  • carboplatin
  • paclitaxel
  • gemcitabine

Radiotherapy, which includes intensity-modulated radiotherapy, prevents malignant cells from dividing and stops cancer from growing and spreading to nearby parts of the body. In some people, especially in those with pharyngeal cancer in the early stages, radiotherapy can even eliminate the malignant tumor so that the patient will be free of cancer. Nonetheless, the patient will require close monitoring, as the malignant tumor may return after several months. For pharyngeal cancer, radiotherapy involves 5 to 6 weeks of daily treatment.

As for surgery, people whose malignant tumor has returned after being destroyed by radiotherapy will require it. If the tumor is small, the surgeon will perform transoral laser microsurgery. Before this surgery, the patient is given general anesthesia to fall asleep entirely. Subsequently, a laser is inserted in the mouth, and the beam is intended to remove the malignant tumor and 2.5 inches of tissue around it.

Following surgery, a small nasogastric feeding tube is inserted through a nostril and into the stomach because the patient cannot eat until the surgical area heals, which takes approximately two weeks. During this time, the patient will receive liquid food through the tube. The patient needs to spend three to five days in the hospital after surgery with the nasogastric feeding tube in their nostril.

More extensive tumors will require a traditional surgical approach. Accordingly, surgeons will use a scalpel to make the incision in the neck, under the chin, to determine where the tumor is and remove it. They will reconstruct the open area and close it with a flap of muscles or skin from the arm or other part of the body. If the lymph nodes in the neck have been damaged by cancer, a neck dissection will be needed to remove them.

There are multiple types of pharyngeal cancer, depending on the particularities of the malignant cells involved in the tumor. The most common types of pharyngeal cancer are:

  • squamous cell carcinoma: as the most common type of pharyngeal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma develops in the thin, flat cells that line the pharynx
  • adenocarcinoma: this type of pharyngeal cancer begins in the glandular cells of the organ

Additionally, there are subtypes of these types of pharyngeal cancer, namely:

  • keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma
  • non-keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma
  • undifferentiated or poorly differentiated carcinoma

Symptoms of Pharyngeal Cancer

The following are the most common symptoms in people with pharyngeal cancer:

  • swelling of the neck
  • persistent headaches
  • nasal congestion
  • facial pain
  • nosebleeds
  • changes in hearing
  • ringing in the ears

Diagnosis of Pharyngeal Cancer

The diagnostic process of pharyngeal cancer begins with your doctor asking you about the symptoms you are experiencing. Afterward, they will conduct a physical exam, during which they will examine your mouth, throat, and ears and will use a small lighted mirror to examine your pharynx.

The physician will subsequently insert a thin, flexible tube with a light at the end, medically known as an endoscope, in your nostril to assess the back of your nose. A local anesthetic spray may be used to numb your nose and throat. You will be instructed not to eat or drink anything for one hour after this exam or until your throat is no longer numb.

If your doctor suspects the presence of pharyngeal cancer, they will order some of the following tests:

  • blood tests: blood tests will measure the levels of certain proteins released by malignant tumors in the body, medically known as tumor markers, whose presence in your blood may indicate pharyngeal cancer
  • orthopantomography: this panoramic X-ray of the upper and lower jaw shows a view from ear to ear and helps determine whether a malignant tumor has grown into the jaw bone
  • imaging tests: you will be recommended to undergo a CT scan, MRI scan, or PET scan, which will provide your doctor with clear and detailed images from the inside of your body that will help them determine the location of the tumor, the size of the tumor and whether cancer has spread to nearby parts of the body

While medical researchers have not yet found the exact cause of pharyngeal cancer, they found that the presence of certain factors in your life may increase your chances of developing this malignant disease, such as:

  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • tobacco smoking
  • a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • exposure to toxic agents in the workplace
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • infection with HPV and the Epstein-Barr virus

Even though research shows there are no established methods of preventing pharyngeal cancer, you can decrease your risk of developing it by avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, treating your gastroesophageal reflux disease, and wearing adequate protective equipment when you work with toxic agents on the job.

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