Pharyngeal Cancer Treatments & Therapy Options
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At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), surgery is the preferred treatment for early-stage pharyngeal cancers.
For advanced stage or recurrent pharyngeal cancer, we may combine surgery with other forms of treatment, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These treatments may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery. If cancer is found in the throat, nearby lymph nodes are also removed during surgery to test for the presence of cancer.
Surgical Procedures for Pharyngeal Cancer
Laser Surgery: In laser surgery, an endoscope with a high-intensity laser on the tip is inserted down the throat. The tumor can then be vaporized or cut out using the laser.
Pharyngectomy: An operation in which part or all of the throat is removed.
Reconstructive Procedures: Following extensive surgery to remove laryngeal cancer, reconstructive operations can help restore both the structure and the function of the affected areas.
Myocutaneous Flaps: The throat is reconstructed using muscle and skin from a nearby area that is rotated toward the throat.
Free Flaps: Using “microvascular surgery,” in which small blood vessels are sewn together under a microscope, it may be possible to reconstruct the throat using tissues from other areas of the body, such as the intestines or arm muscle.
Lymph Node Removal: Cancer of the pharynx sometimes spreads to the lymph nodes in the neck. If such spreading seems likely, then removing the lymph nodes might be recommended. This operation is called a neck dissection, and is usually done at the same time as surgery to remove an already existing tumor. The exact amount of tissue that needs to be removed depends on the stage of cancer. With the most invasive procedure, some nerves and muscles that control neck and shoulder movement may be removed with the lymph nodes. However, many times surgery of this kind does not need to involve as much of the healthy tissue, preserving the normal function of the shoulders and neck.
Tracheotomy/Tracheostomy: A tracheotomy is done to create an alternate pathway for breathing by creating a hole, or stoma, in the trachea, or windpipe. There are different situations when a tracheotomy may be needed. After a total laryngectomy, the opening in the windpipe is connected with an opening in the front of the neck to provide a new route for breathing. This permanent procedure is known as a tracheostomy.
Gastrostomy Tube: A gastrostomy tube is a feeding tube that can be inserted directly into the stomach. This approach may be recommended if a cancer in the pharynx is preventing swallowing. A gastrostomy tube can ensure that an individual is getting adequate nutrition.
A feeding tube can also be placed in the stomach through the mouth. With this process, known as a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, or PEG, a camera is attached to the end of a long, thin tube, allowing your doctor to see directly into the stomach. Special liquid nutrients can be provided through the tube.
These tubes may be inserted on a short-term or long-term basis. They can help keep you healthy and fed during treatment, and can be left in after treatment if necessary. The tube can be easily removed as soon as normal eating is possible.
Surgical Procedures for Nasopharyngeal Cancer
The nasopharynx is difficult to access. For this reason, and because other types of treatment tend to be highly effective, surgery is not usually the main treatment recommended for people with nasopharyngeal cancer.