Cells are the building blocks of living things. All organs in the body are made up of cells. Under normal conditions, healthy cells multiply and die as per the requisites of the body.
This orderly division of cells is controlled by DNA, which is the genetic material that contains the instructions for every chemical process in the body. When DNA is damaged or altered, changes occur in these instructions. One of the outcomes is that cells may begin to grow out of control and eventually form a mass or growth known as a tumor.
A tumor can be differentiated into benign and malignant forms on the basis of being non-cancerous and cancerous respectively. Benign tumors are rarely life threatening as they do not spread to other parts of the body and can be removed. Cancerous tumors can be of various kinds. Cancer can develop in almost any tissue or organ of the body such as the throat, lung, colon, breast, skin, bones or nerve tissue.
Cancer that develops in the larynx or the voice box or in any other part of the wind pipe is known as laryngeal or throat cancer. The throat region consists of two main tubes – the food pipe and wind pipe. The larynx is at the top of the wind pipe. It has a set of two vocal cords, which produce sound when air passes through them. Since the setting of the vocal cords is different for each individual, the sound produced by them also varies, giving each person his or her own distinct voice.
Men are 10 times more prone than women to develop laryngeal cancer. Men over the age of 50 years are at greater risk of developing this condition. Smoking and use of tobacco is the foremost cause for developing throat cancer. Alcoholism also predisposes an individual to cancer of the throat.
Symptoms of throat cancer can be characterized as a change in the voice, bad breath, a sore in the mouth that does not heal and continues to increase in size, constant pain or soreness in the mouth, pain in the ears, frequent headaches, lumps or colored patches in the mouth, trouble in breathing and speaking, chronic sinus infections that exist even after course of antibiotics, difficulty in chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw and a lump in the neck.
An early indication of oral and throat cancer is one or more changes in the way the soft tissues of the mouth usually look or feel. The clinical appearance of throat cancer ranges from symptomatic white patches to large wounds. Cancer of the throat may be preceded by visible precursor lesions that are not yet malignant. These appear as heaped up cells or reddish sores. One can detect the disease early by comparing the way the mouth sides, roof and tongue usually look or feel with the abnormal spot in the mouth. These sores and swellings may be painless unless they become infected. Bleeding generally occurs towards the later stages of the disease. An ulcer or swelling accompanied by lumps in the neck could be a matter of grave concern.
Cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumor. They may enter blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into all the tissues of the body. On attaching to other tissues, these cancer cells lead to the growth of new tumors that may damage those tissues as well. The spread of cancer cells is called metastasis. One needs to be cautious as such a condition spells out marginal chances of cure. Thus, the best possible cure lies in keeping one’s eyes open to the visual appearance of the signs of the disease.
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