By Gannon Cohen
In a recent Instagram post, Dallas Cowboys legend Michael Irvin shared that he was undergoing testing for throat cancer. His father passed at age 51 from the disease, so he grew concerned when his voice loss persisted for nearly two months. Fortunately Irvin’s testing came back clean, however, the number of throat cancer cases is on the rise.
Since it is estimated that there will be 12,410 new cases of laryngeal (throat) cancer in 2019, it is important to understand its signs and symptoms, which may include:
- Sore throat
- Painful swallowing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- Severe weight loss
- Neck mass
Dr. Trad Wadsworth, vice chair of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Head and Neck-Endocrine Oncology Department, says, “Any sign or symptom of throat cancer that lasts more than two weeks without improvement should be evaluated by a physician.”
Tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption and a diet low in fruits and vegetables put individuals at a greater risk for throat cancer. Some throat cancers are thought to be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which can be best prevented by vaccination. Children and adults ages 11 to 45 can receive the HPV vaccination series.
Since many throat cancer symptoms aren't specific to cancer, your doctor will likely investigate more common causes first. But being aware of the symptoms of this disease is crucial for early detection.