Throat Cancer Treatment

oral cavity

Throat cancer, also referred to as pharyngeal cancer, is a form of oral cancer that starts in an area of the body called the pharynx, which is a small tube that starts behind the nose and leads to the esophagus and trachea. Cancer that forms in the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat), the hypopharynx (the bottom part of throat) and the larynx (the voice box) also are considered throat cancers.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are approximately 12,600 new cases of throat cancer diagnosed each year and 12,700 new cases of laryngeal cancer.1

Treatment options for throat cancer can include one or more of the following treatment options:

A common treatment for throat is surgery to remove the area where the cancer is detected. Depending on the size of the tumor, part of the tongue, jaw, pharynx and palate also may be removed, which may affect the ability to talk, swallow or chew. In these cases, reconstructive surgery may be necessary to help rebuild the areas that were removed.
Radiation Therapy
Given internally or externally, radiation therapy is an option for very small tumors or people who can not tolerate surgery. It also can be used prior to surgery to try to shrink the tumor or used after to try to kill any remaining cancer cells in the surrounding area.
Chemotherapy for throat cancer is standard treatment option that can be given in combination with radiation therapy and/or after surgery. Because of the harsh nature of chemotherapy, it can cause pain and infection in the mouth and gums, resulting in dry mouth and/or changes in taste.
Targeted Therapy
A drug called Erbitux also can be given in combination with radiation or chemotherapy. It belongs to a class of drugs known as targeted therapies because it is designed to bind to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) cells that are found on the surface of cancer cells. Since it is a targeted therapy, it may have less side effects than chemotherapy.


  1. National Cancer Institute. Throat (Laryngeal and Pharyngeal) Cancer. Accessed on January 2, 2011.

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