Posts for: June, 2020
Your ENT doctor sees, diagnoses, and treats many conditions related to the ear, nose, and throat. One of the most worrisome is throat cancer, along with malignancies of the pharynx, tonsils, and larynx. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America reports that the incidence of throat cancer increases with age (65 and older) and gender (male). As with most cancers, early recognition of symptoms, a proper diagnosis, and the right treatment are the keys to recovery.
Signs of throat cancer
The American Cancer Society says a persistent sore throat--one lasting two weeks or more--is a danger sign you should report to your primary care physician or otolaryngologist right away. Other signs of malignancy include:
- A continuing cough
- Hoarseness of voice
- Unexplained and significant weight loss
- Trouble swallowing easily (dysphagia)
- Pain in the jaw or ear
- White or red patches or sores in the mouth which do not heal
- Nose bleeds
- Swollen tissues anywhere in the head/neck area
- Numbness in the mouth and especially the tongue
- Continual nasal congestion
Sadly, untreated throat cancer spreads to other parts of the body, including the lips, lungs, and bones. More severe symptoms, such as bone pain or coughing up blood, can indicate metastasis of throat cancer.
Risk factors and prevention
Many throat cancers can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. Lifestyle risk factors include:
- Smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco
- Excessive alcohol consumption (more than two drinks daily if you a man and more than one a day for women)
- HPV exposure (Human Papilloma Virus) through oral sex
- A diet low in vegetables and fruit
- GERD, or acid reflux disease, in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus
- Trouble with breathing and speaking
To minimize your risk, your physician may recommend smoking cessation, losing weight to avoid GERD, a diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables, and less alcohol. Asbestos exposure poses a cancer risk. Additionally, your dentist helps with early detection as he or she checks you for oral cancer with each routine office visit.
How to beat it
The American Cancer Society reports that about 12,000 people in the United States receive a throat cancer diagnosis annually. Five-year survival rates improve with early staging. See your doctor right away if you exhibit these concerning symptoms. Live longer, and live well.
An ear, nose, and throat professional (ENT) is a great resource when it comes to your allergies. Whether your symptoms are caused by seasonal changes or triggered by animal dander, an ENT can help you find the medication you need. Here is a small guide to finding the right allergy medication for you.
Decongestants vs. Antihistamines
There are two major types of allergy medication. Understanding the difference between them helps you find the right fit. A decongestant relieves your symptoms after your allergies have kicked in. They clear out your stuffy or runny nose, along with relieving any itching or sneezing. Antihistamines focus on stopping your allergies before they even start. They give you twenty-four-hour protection so you don’t have to worry.
Nasal sprays are a quick and direct way to clear up nasal congestion. These are bought over-the-counter or with a prescription. You insert the spray into each nostril, doing one or two pumps for the full effect. They are available as both decongestants and antihistamines.
A common problem with allergies is how it affects the eyes. They can get red and watery, causing pain and discomfort. This is especially true if you use contact lenses for vision. There are eye drops targeted specifically at allergy relief. These will clear up any redness and discomfort quickly.
Medication Side Effects
Talk to your ENT about any side effects of allergy medication that they recommend or prescribe. You can voice any concerns that you may have, guaranteeing a medication that works for you. That’s one of the benefits of getting a prescription medication compared to over-the-counter. If you do purchase over-the-counter, be aware of these possible complications.
- Over-the-counter antihistamines have been known to cause blurry vision, constipation, drowsiness, and possibly weight gain.
- Nasal sprays can lead to constipation, nose bleeds, and an upset stomach.
- Oral decongestants have been linked to high blood pressure.
If you experience any of these symptoms after taking a medication or nasal spray, talk to your ENT right away. They can advise you to discontinue a pharmaceutical and switch to something different. Through trial and error, you’ll find a functional treatment plan that works for your needs.
You may take it for granted, but swallowing water, food, or saliva is actually a very complicated process. It requires vast systems of nerves and muscles working together. Patients that struggle to swallow normally have what is known as Dysphagia. This is not a stand-alone condition but a symptom of something else. It’s why you need to schedule an appointment with an Ears, Nose, and Throat specialist (ENT) right away. The elderly are especially at risk and can end up aspirating.
The Swallowing Process
There are four distinct stages of swallowing. You do this hundreds of times every day without even realizing it.
- The oral preparation stage is where the food or liquid is made ready for swallowing. In terms of food, this means chewing your food.
- Next is the oral stage where the tongue moves food or liquid to the back of the mouth. This starts the swallowing process.
- Then comes the pharyngeal stage, where the contents of the mouth go through the pharynx, throat, and esophagus.
- Last is the esophageal stage, where it transfers from the esophagus into your stomach.
Symptoms of Dysphagia
Pay attention to these symptoms if dysphagia is suspected:
- A constant feeling of something, either water or liquid, being stuck in the throat.
- Problems controlling saliva production, i.e. drooling.
- The sensation of a lump in the throat.
- Discomfort in the chest or throat.
- Coughing or choking when trying to swallow, drink, or eat. This is due to substances being pulled into the lungs.
- Difficulties sustaining a normal weight caused by swallowing interfering with nutritional intake.
What Is Causing My Dysphagia?
The most common cause is Gastroesophageal Reflux. This is a GI condition where stomach acid travels up the esophagus and pharynx. Other possibilities include:
- Tonsillitis or throat infections
- Scarring or damage to the esophagus
- Medication side effects
- Tumors in the lungs, esophagus, or throat
- Nerve diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
What to Expect With Treatment
Your ENT specialist works with you to determine the cause of your dysphagia. Addressing the underlying condition can start a path to recovery.
In some cases the cause is unclear. Your ENT will do everything possible to determine what is behind your dysphagia. They will ask you about the history of this problem and examine your throat. They might recommend a swallow test or various types of laryngoscopy.