Throat Cancer Treatment Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer, including throat cancer, when it is in its more advanced stages. Most often used in conjunction with other cancer treatment options, such as surgery or radiation therapy, chemotherapy is the treatment choice especially when the cancer has metastasized, or spread, because, unlike surgery or radiation, it treats the entire body.

An Overview of Throat Cancer

Throat cancer is more often diagnosed in men than women and typically develops in people who are over 50 years old. The biggest risk factors for getting throat cancer include smoking and drinking alcohol.

Throat cancer can appear in the larynx, esophagus, thyroid gland or the cells that line the throat. The most common symptoms of throat cancer include hoarseness, constant throat pain and the sensation that something is stuck in the throat. Throat cancer can be treated in several different ways, including through surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

When deciding how to treat your throat cancer, your doctor will consider the stage of your cancer, the size of the tumor(s) and other factors, such as your overall health and age.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Cancer occurs when cells abnormally multiply at an accelerated rate. One way to treat those out of control cells is to use chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy, one of several cancer-killing drugs, refers to a series of drugs that cancer patients take either intravenously or orally. The type of chemotherapy drugs a patient takes and the length of treatment depend on how serious the throat cancer is and where it is specifically located.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

The side effects of chemotherapy vary with the type of drug used and the duration of the chemotherapy treatment. Some of the side effects that patients might have include:

  • diarrhea
  • dry skin and hair
  • decreased sexual desire
  • hair loss
  • fatigue
  • low resistance to infection
  • mouth sores
  • nausea
  • vomiting.

These side effects are generally short-term in that they subside as soon as chemotherapy treatments end.

While some patients find that they can go on with their normal lives in between chemotherapy treatments, others find the effects of the chemotherapy to be seriously debilitating. However, most people have no long-lasting effects from chemotherapy.

To help ease chemotherapy side effects, your doctor might prescribe you certain drugs, such as growth factors. These drugs, which can be injected during chemotherapy treatments, will help your bone marrow make new blood cells and recover more quickly from the chemotherapy.

Coping with Chemotherapy Side Effects

While some people who undergo chemotherapy will experience minor side effects, some will experience intense side effects. No matter how difficult your experience may be, these tips can help ease your chemotherapy side effects:

  • Eat a small meal before getting your chemotherapy. This might help reduce your nausea.
  • Eat plenty of fiber to help prevent diarrhea.
  • Exercise several times a week to help prevent fatigue and maintain strength.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated.
  • Take naps when possible to avoid fatigue.
  • To help reduce pain from mouth sores, eat a frozen treat, such as a Popsicle.

Chemotherapy Costs

The cost of chemotherapy varies, depending on:

  • how long the drugs are given
  • how often the drugs are given
  • the dose of the drugs
  • the kind of chemotherapy drugs used
  • where you receive your treatment, such as at home, at a doctor’s office or in a hospital.

Most health insurance plans cover some, if not all, of the costs of chemotherapy treatments.


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National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help During Cancer Treatment. Retrieved June 22, 2007 from