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Throat Cancers

What to Expect After Treatment is Completed

Once you have made it through treatment, you need to have close follow-up with your doctor. The current NCCN Guidelines® for Head and Neck Cancers recommend this follow-up plan after being treated for a throat cancer:12Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Head and Neck Cancers V.2.2016. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed December 7, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org.

  • Visit your head and neck specialist on a regular schedule (or earlier if you have any concerning symptoms). This allows your doctor to examine you for any signs that the cancer has come back.
    • For the first year, you should go every one to three months.
    • For the second year, you should go every two to six months.
    • For the third to fifth year, you should go every four to eight months.
    • After five years, you can start going every year.
  • Your doctor should select a scan to be performed in the first six months after treatment. The first scan serves as a “baseline” study for the purpose of comparing future studies. This will depend on the type, stage and location of your cancer. Imaging may include CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans. If something suspicious comes up, you might need another biopsy.
  • Consider chest imaging  to check for any signs of lung cancer  if you have an extensive smoking history.
  • Check your thyroid function every six to twelve months if you have had radiation to the neck area.
  • Get help with a therapist as needed for difficulties with speaking, hearing and swallowing.
  • See a specialist about appropriate nutrition and diet.
  • Alert your doctor if you experience any signs of depression.
  • Stop smoking and stop drinking.
  • See a dentist.
  • For nasopharyngeal cancer:
    • Your doctor might consider monitoring you for a virus called Epstein-Barr virus with annual blood work or imaging.
    • Because it is difficult to view the nasopharynx without imaging, routine annual imaging may be necessary.
References

1 Moore C. Smoking and cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association. Jan 25 1965;191(4):283-286.

2 Pelucchi C, Gallus S, Garavello W, Bosetti C, La Vecchia C. Cancer risk associated with alcohol and tobacco use: focus on upper aero-digestive tract and liver. Alcohol research & health: the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2006;29(3):193-198.

3 Little MP. Cancer after exposure to radiation in the course of treatment for benign and malignant disease. The lancet oncology. Apr 2001;2(4):212-220.

4 D'Souza G, Kreimer AR, Viscidi R, et al. Case-control study of human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal cancer. The New England journal of medicine. May 10 2007;356(19):1944-1956.

5 Hildesheim A, Berrington de Gonzalez A. Etiology and prevention of cervical adenocarcinomas. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Mar 1 2006;98(5):292-293.

6 Armstrong RW, Armstrong MJ, Yu MC, Henderson BE. Salted fish and inhalants as risk factors for nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Malaysian Chinese. Cancer research. Jun 1983;43(6):2967-2970.

7 Larsson LG, Sandstrom A, Westling P. Relationship of Plummer-Vinson disease to cancer of the upper alimentary tract in Sweden. Cancer research. Nov 1975;35(11 Pt. 2):3308-3316.

8 El-Serag HB, Hepworth EJ, Lee P, Sonnenberg A. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a risk factor for laryngeal and pharyngeal cancer. Am J Gastroenterol. Jul 2001;96(7):2013-8.

9 Vaezi MF, Qadeer MA, Lopez R, Colabianchi N. Laryngeal cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease: a case-control study. Am J Med. Sep 2006;119(9):768-76.

10 Wei WI, Sham JS. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Lancet. Jun 11-17 2005;365(9476):2041-2054.

11 Hoare TJ, Thomson HG, Proops DW. Detection of laryngeal cancer--the case for early specialist assessment. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Jul 1993;86(7):390-392.

12 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Head and Neck Cancers V.2.2016. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed December 7, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org.