In short, yes, but it certainly isn’t always fatal as long as you get the right treatment early enough. As with most cancers, catching the tumour early, before it has spread to other parts of the body, is key to a good long term outcome. In some people, throat cancer causes symptoms (most commonly a persistent hoarse voice, but also pain on swallowing or a persistent lump in the throat) quite early. Throat cancer is much more common in smokers, and while these symptoms should always be checked out, seeking help early is even more important if you’ve ever smoked. The other factor that determines how likely you are to survive long term after a diagnosis of throat cancer is how aggressive the cancer is. Your doctor will be able to tell you from looking at the cancer cells under a microscope what ‘grade’ of cancer it is. Grade 1 (low grade) tends to grow relatively slowly and is less likely to have spread by the time it’s diagnosed. Grade 3 (high grade) is the most aggressive form and Grade 2 (intermediate) is somewhere between the two. The treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Your doctor will discuss all the options with you, depending on the grade of cancer and whether it has spread. In the early stages, treatment does aim to cure you of cancer (or at least put you into ‘remission’, which means there is no sign of the cancer and the long term prospects are good).
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