Difficulty swallowing is a sign of cancer

Coughing, scratching, throat cancer: recognizing symptoms and avoiding the causes

Malignant tumors in the upper respiratory tract and food tract are the sixth most common of all cancers worldwide [1]. In 2014, around 2,980 men and around 520 women were diagnosed with larynx cancer in Germany alone [2].

The unclear symptoms of this cancer are insidious. The most common causes, however, can be avoided. We want to raise awareness of both aspects.

Symptoms for throat cancer

The fact that the disease is often noticed late is mainly due to the fact that the first signs of larynx cancer cannot be clearly assigned. This makes diagnosis extremely difficult. One reason for this is that the usually fast-growing ulcers start individually at different places in the larynx. The complaints that are triggered are correspondingly different.

Typical early warning signs for larynx cancer are [3]

  • Discomfort or pain when swallowing
  • Itching in the throat, the compulsion to clear one's throat and persistent hoarseness
  • Chronic cough
  • The vague feeling of having a foreign body in your throat

If these tumor symptoms occur over a period of three weeks, a doctor should be consulted.

Most common causes of throat cancer

The greatest risk of developing throat cancer lies in smokers. According to the German Cancer Society, there is a direct connection between the likelihood of an outbreak of the disease and the duration and intensity of one's own tobacco consumption. Drinking more alcohol makes certain types of larynx cancer more likely.

Furthermore, an infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to cancer in the throat area and thus also in the larynx.

Medical check-up and chances of recovery

So far, complex examinations have been necessary for a diagnosis, as the region is difficult to access. These include, for example:

  • Special endoscopic procedures in which the doctor examines the entire larynx and the upper windpipe, where the vocal cords are located, for abnormalities with a kind of angled mirror.
  • The surgical removal of tissue that is then tested for signs of cancer.

These procedures generally only take effect in the event of a suspected case. Organized screening of the population and especially of the risk groups has so far been lacking. One of the research concerns of oncgnostics GmbH is therefore to develop a non-invasive test for the early detection of head and neck tumors. Cancer cells are to be detected in saliva samples. In the future, the above-mentioned complaints should be able to be easily clarified for cancer.

The extent to which a tumor disease of the larynx can be cured depends largely on the age and general health of the person concerned. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the higher the chances of a complete cure. Regular, long-term follow-up checks will be carried out later to see whether the cancer is returning or spreading within the body.


ONKO internet portal at krebsgesellschaft.de

[1] https://www.krebsgesellschaft.de/onko-internetportal/basis-informationen-krebs/krebsarten/andere-krebsarten/kehlkopfkrebs.html

[2] https://www.krebsgesellschaft.de/onko-internetportal/basis-informationen-krebs/krebsarten/andere-krebsarten/kehlkopfkrebs/definition-und-haeufigkeit.html

[3] https://www.krebsgesellschaft.de/onko-internetportal/basis-informationen-krebs/krebsarten/andere-krebsarten/kehlkopfkrebs/symptome.html

[4] https://www.krebsgesellschaft.de/onko-internetportal/basis-informationen-krebs/krebsarten/andere-krebsarten/kehlkopfkrebs/ursache-und-risikofaktoren.html


Cover picture: SciePro / Shutterstock.com (edited)

/ by Ines Sommer