Some forms of cancer can be detected by screening. This means they can be caught before symptoms appear. Early diagnosis of all forms of cancer improves the chances of recovery. Unfortunately, there is no effective test to screen for laryngeal cancer. The American Cancer Society does not recommend any form of screening for this cancer, but they do encourage you to talk to your doctor right away if you have symptoms.

Laryngeal cancer (cancer of the throat) responds well to treatment if it is caught early. Most of these cancers are detected as a direct result of the symptoms they cause. While symptoms may start as mild, they are persistent. Instead of waiting, see the otolaryngologist, or ENT, right away if you have any symptoms of throat cancer.

Symptoms of throat cancer

Cancers that form on your vocal cords will cause a change in the sound of your voice. You may notice that you sound hoarse. This is good news, because it can lead to this form of cancer being caught very early. If you are hoarse for more than two weeks, see the ENT right away.

Throat cancers that do not form on the vocal cords have much more subtle symptoms. This means they are not detected as early. Other symptoms of throat cancer are:

  • Persistent, sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Pain when swallowing or problems swallowing
  • Pain in the ears
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A lump or mass in the neck

How ENTs diagnose throat cancer

Your ENT will take a complete medical history. Be sure to be prepared to provide a history and timeline of all your symptoms. The ENT will perform an examination of your head. Even if your complaint is about your throat, be prepared for your nose and ears to be examined as well.

The ENT will likely perform a laryngoscopy. This will be done by direct laryngoscopy, where a flexible fiber optic laryngoscope is inserted or an indirect laryngoscopy where a set of mirrors is used to inspect the larynx. Don’t worry, a numbing agent will be sprayed so you won’t gag or be uncomfortable.

If necessary, a more intrusive panendoscopy will be performed. This must be done under sedation. The ENT will examine your larynx and hypopharynx, including the esophagus and trachea. A bronchoscope and endoscope may also be used during this procedure.

Biopsies, imaging tests, X-rays and PET scans are all diagnostic tools the ENT will use to detect cancer.

ENTs treat cancer with many therapies

Your ENT is a skilled in the treatment of throat cancers. Depending on the type and location of your cancer and your general health, many different treatments may be used.

If surgery is necessary, your ENT is a skilled surgeon. Unlike most medical specialists, ENTs have dually certified, not only in their area of expertise, but also in surgery as well.  In addition to surgery, throat cancer may be treated with radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of treatments.

The earlier any cancer is detected, the better. If you have any symptoms of throat cancer, be sure to call the ENT for an assessment right away.