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Head and Neck Cancer

Fear of throat or oral cancer

01/02/2008

Question:

I have been a heavy smoker for 30 years. I am in the process of trying to quit. I have had a sore throat, cough and earaches for a few months. I also feel as if it is difficult for me to talk and feel breathless. I went to an ENT who scoped me and said I have no lesions but my voice box was inflamed. He prescribed protonix BID. This didn`t help. I happened to have had a spine scan a few months ago because of a back injury and in the results it said my parotid glands were dilated and I had several subclinical lymph nodes on both sides of my jugular. Once in awhile, my tongue feels swollen and a few times I have actually woken up with severe pain on the sides of my tongue which only last a minute or two.

My ent and internist think it is gerd and I am scheduled for an upper endoscopy as well as a neck scan but again the docs think the sub clinical lymph nodes do not mean much and my ent said he saw nothing in my throat except a swollen voice box.

I am frightened I have oral cancer (larynx, esogagus, tongue, etc. After the endoscopy, if it turns out negative or that I have gerd, do you think I can rest or should I be pursuing a different test to confirm I do not have oral cancer of any sort. as you can see, I am rather nervous and frightened.

Thank you in advance for considering a response.

Answer:

I think so far everything has been done the right way. Nothing was found on the ENT scope…this certainly cuts down on the likelihood of any cancer in your throat. Also a cause for your discomfort has been found. You have some inflammation in your throat. In addition to your smoking, gastro-esophageal reflux or GERD is a common cause of chronic irritation. I certainly agree with the Protonix. Throat symptoms from reflux can take months to go away so you need to be persistent. I hope you realize that you need to change your lifestyle…no more smoking…change your diet…and use alcohol in moderation. If your discomfort does not improve in time, your physician is likely to order more studies (CT scan). He will reexamine you and he may bring you to the operating room to examine your throat with you asleep.

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Response by:

Cheryl  Koliha-Brandt, MSN, RN, CNS, CORLN Cheryl Koliha-Brandt, MSN, RN, CNS, CORLN
Clinical Nurse Specialist and Instructor of
Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology 
Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Case Western Reserve University

Pierre  Lavertu, MD, FRCS(C), FACS Pierre Lavertu, MD, FRCS(C), FACS
Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University