The American Cancer Society estimates that about 38,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with throat cancer in 2011.” – MD Anderson Cancer Center. Throat Cancer Facts.

Having a lump in one’s throat is an expression that means being emotional or holding back tears. For some, however, the phrase can be literal with serious consequences. For patients with throat cancer, a lump in the throat could be a tumor. Throat cancer is a treatable condition, but many of the treatment options can actually make swallowing more difficult for patients.

Throat cancer encompasses both pharyngeal and laryngeal cancers. Throat cancers are most commonly carcinomas, so they tend to fall under the category of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). Tobacco use contributes heavily to throat cancer rates, and HPV contributes to throat cancers, as well.

Physicians treat small tumors with either surgery, or radiation therapy. Surgery for small, localized tumors often has few side effects, but surgery for advanced tumors is more extensive and can include removal of parts of the throat or voice box, according to UCSF Medical Center. Physicians also treat large tumors or those that have spread with chemotherapy or targeted agents.

Throat cancers can make it difficult for patients to swallow. However, treatment, such as invasive throat surgery and radiation, can sometimes make the dysphagia worse. Some patients find it impossible to swallow after treatment and require feeding tubes. Patients who have trouble swallowing are likely to have low medication compliance if prescribed oral medication. Orbis Biosciences uses Precision Particle FabricationTM technology to develop drugs to improve compliance in patients with dysphagia. We may not be able to get rid of the tumors, but we have the capability to improve the lives of patients with throat cancer, which puts a lump in our throat.