Cancers arising from the cells lining the inside of the throat from the back of the tongue to the entrance of the esophagus — the pharynx — are called pharyngeal or throat cancers. They may be in the upper part of the pharynx (the oropharynx), which includes the back of the tongue and the tonsils, or in the lower part of the pharynx (the hypopharynx).
New research has added to our knowledge of the causes of throat cancers and may help prevent these cancers in the future. Research has also led to new ways of treating them.
There's no proven way to prevent throat cancer from occurring. But in order to reduce your risk of throat cancer, you can:
- Stop smoking or don't start smoking. If you smoke, quit. If you don't smoke, don't start. Stopping smoking can be very difficult, so get some help. Your doctor can discuss the benefits and risks of the many stop-smoking strategies, such as medication, nicotine replacement products and counseling.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all. For women, this means one drink a day. For men, moderate drinking means no more than two drinks a day.
- Choose a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of throat cancer. Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Protect yourself from HPV. Some throat cancers are thought to be caused by the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV). You can reduce your risk of HPV by limiting your number of sexual partners and using a condom every time you have sex. Also consider the HPV vaccine, which is available to boys, girls, and young women and men.
Natural Ways to Prevent Throat Cancer
The best way to treat cancer is to prevent it happening in the first place! You can do this by a few simple lifestyle changes:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, preferably at least five portions of each a day, and some raw. Fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly raw, contain vitamins and anti-oxidants that help prevent the free radicals that can cause cancer.
- Don’t smoke – throat cancer is specifically linked to cigarette smoking. If you do smoke, think about giving up. There are support groups and various medications that can help you. Quitting smoking will also improve your skin and help you stay looking young in addition to preventing cancer.
- Cut down or stop your alcohol consumption. Frequent consumption of alcohol is linked to throat cancer. If you think you might be suffering from an alcohol dependency problem, there are organizations that can assist you.
- Cut your exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that are naturally present in the environment, however, these are harmful to human health. Industries that used asbestos are the mining industry, construction, and automobile industry. Since 1979, it has been illegal to make any new products with asbestos, but it may still be present in your home, workplace, or your child’s school. Make sure that you have your home inspected to make sure that any asbestos is removed or encased to limit its affect on you. Make sure your employer or school principle also has inspections if they suspect there is asbestos in the building.
- Check all your cosmetics and medicines carefully to make sure that none of them contain formaldehyde. Shampoo and shower gels commonly contain it, so go green and buy environmentally friendly products that don’t contain this.
- Have safe sex! Throat cancer is directly linked to oral sex and to the number of sexual partners a person has, both for vaginal and oral sexual intercourse. The New England Journal of Medicine found that “A high lifetime number of vaginal-sex partners (26 or more) was associated with oropharyngeal cancer as was a high lifetime number of oral-sex partners (6 or more).”
New Treatments for Throat Cancer
One change in treating throat cancer is that the big surgical procedures that sometimes resulted in loss of throat function and long periods of rehabilitation are no longer the first line of treatment. "In the last 10 years, we have greatly improved the treatment of throat cancers because of new ways of giving radiation therapy. This has made surgery less important, and we have been able to preserve throat function and improve the quality of life for many people with throat cancer," says Syed.
Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) is a new way of giving radiation therapy to throat cancer with much less damage to surrounding normal areas. Other new techniques include better ways to evaluate throat cancer before and during treatment. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan detects a small amount of radioactive glucose injected into the blood. Since throat cancer cells take up these sugar molecules faster than normal cells, doctors can discover throat cancer that might not have been seen before.
Another new way of treating throat cancer is the combination of new types of drugs with radiation treatments. The drug cetuximab (Erbitux) has recently been approved for treatment of throat cancers. It blocks the activity of a substance called epidermal growth factor, which is needed for some cancer cells to grow. In a recent clinical trial, cetuximab combined with radiation therapy was shown to significantly improve response rates over radiation therapy alone.
Ongoing research may lead to more new ways of preventing and treating throat cancers. In the meantime, remember that not smoking and especially avoiding the combination of smoking and drinking are the best defense against throat cancer.
Best Food To Prevent Cancer
Garlic contains sulfur compounds that may stimulate the immune system’s natural defenses against cancer, and may have the potential to reduce tumor growth. Studies suggest that garlic can reduce the incidence of stomach cancer by as much as a factor of 12.
Broccoli is a cancer-preventing superfood, one you should eat frequently. But take note: A Spanish study found that microwaving broccoli destroys 97 percent of the vegetable’s cancer-protective flavonoids. So steam it, eat it raw as a snack, or add it to soups and salads.
3. Brazil nuts
They’re a rich form of selenium, a trace mineral that convinces cancer cells to commit suicide and helps cells repair their DNA. A Harvard study of more than 1,000 men with prostate cancer found those with the highest blood levels of selenium were 48 percent less likely to develop advanced disease over 13 years than men with the lowest levels. And a dramatic five-year study conducted at Cornell University and the University of Arizona showed that 200 micrograms of selenium daily—the amount in two unshelled Brazil nuts—resulted in 63 percent fewer prostate tumors, 58 percent fewer colorectal cancers, 46 percent fewer lung malignancies, and a 39 percent overall decrease in cancer deaths.
4. lemonade or limeade
A daily dose of citrus fruits may cut the risk of mouth, throat, and stomach cancers by half, Australian researchers found.
Blueberries rank number one in terms of their antioxidant power. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are unstable compounds that can damage cells and lead to diseases including cancer.
Artichokes are a great source of silymarin, an antioxidant that may help prevent skin cancer. To eat these delicious veggies, peel off the tough outer leaves on the bottom, slice the bottom, and cut off the spiky top. Then boil or steam until tender, about 30-45 minutes. Drain. Dip each leaf in a vinaigrette or garlic mayonnaise, then gently tear the fibrous covering off with your front teeth, working your way inward to the tender heart. Once there, gently scoop the bristles from the middle of the heart, dip in a little butter or lemon juice, and enjoy.
Australian researchers found that people who ate four or more servings of fish per week were nearly one-third less likely to develop the blood cancers leukemia, myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other studies show a link between eating fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and tuna, as well as shrimp and scallops) with a reduced risk of endometrial cancer in women. Ah, those amazing omega-3s at it again.