Can You Survive Stage III Throat Cancer?

Reviewed on 5/4/2021

Cancer research has progressed rapidly in the last few years.
Cancer research has progressed rapidly in the last few years.

Cancer research has progressed rapidly in the last few years. If a person seeks proper treatment and has no serious co-existing health conditions, there is a good chance to survive stage III throat cancer. The lifespan of individuals with cancer is predicted using a score called five-year survival rate.

What is throat cancer?

Throat cancer refers to cancer of any of these two structures: larynx and pharynx. The larynx is also called the voice box, and the pharynx is commonly referred to as the throat.

Different types of throat cancer

Depending on the part of the throat where cancer begins, throat cancer has been divided into the following types:

  • Nasopharyngeal cancer: This throat cancer begins in the nasopharynx, the part of the throat just behind the nose.
  • Oropharyngeal cancer: Oropharyngeal cancer begins in the oropharynx. The oropharynx is the part of the throat right behind the mouth. Tonsils lie in the oropharynx.
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer (laryngopharyngeal cancer): Cancer that begins in the hypopharynx (laryngopharynx or lower pharynx) is called hypopharyngeal cancer (laryngopharyngeal cancer). Hypopharynx is situated just above the esophagus and trachea.
  • Glottic cancer: Glottis refers to the part of the larynx that includes the vocal cords. Throat cancer of the glottis region is called glottic cancer.
  • Supraglottic cancer: Supraglottis refers to the upper portion of the larynx. Cancer of this region is called supraglottic cancer.
  • Subglottic cancer: The lower portion of the voice box, below the vocal cords is called subglottis. Cancer of the subglottis is called subglottic cancer.

What are the stages of throat cancer?

The SEER (surveillance, epidemiology and end results) database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), provides survival statistics for different types of cancer. As per the SEER database, throat cancer can be staged as

  • Local. There is no sign that cancer has spread outside the throat.
  • Regional. Cancer has grown outside the original tissue and spread to the nearby lymph nodes, other tissue or structures.
  • Distant. Cancer has spread to distant regions in the body, such as the liver or lungs.

The SEER staging of cancer is slightly different from the TNM (tumor, node, metastasis) staging of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). They classify cancer into four stages.

  1. Stage I: Throat cancer is only in one part of the larynx and has not spread to the nearby tissues, lymph nodes or other organs.
  2. Stage II: Throat cancer has spread to another part of the larynx but has not spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
  3. Stage III: Throat cancer has grown throughout the larynx and may have spread to a nearby lymph node. It has not spread to other parts of the body.
  4. Stage IV: Throat cancer may have spread into tissue outside the larynx. It may have spread to other parts of the body.

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What is the survival rate of throat cancer?

The survival rates for cancer are calculated in terms of how many people survived for at least five years after the diagnosis. This data is derived from a study that observes a particular set of patients for five years after diagnosis.

Table 1. Five-year relative survival rates for laryngeal cancer
SEER stage Five-year relative survival rate (percent)
All SEER stages combined 61
Localized 78
Regional 45
Distant 34

Table 2. Five-year relative survival rates for hypopharyngeal cancer
SEER stage Five-year relative survival rate (percent)
All SEER stages combined 32
Localized 52
Regional 34
Distant 23

The five-year survival rate (as shown in table 1) for regional (or stage III) laryngeal cancer is 45 percent. This means 45 out of 100 people with stage III laryngeal cancer could live at least five years or more. Similarly, 61 patients out of every 100 patients diagnosed with laryngeal cancer of any stage could live for at least five years.

Survival rates for cancer depend on the age, overall health, type of throat cancer, and response of the body to treatments. For example, the chances of survival with glottic cancer are the best, whereas the chances of survival with hypopharyngeal cancer are the worst. Discuss with the doctor about all these factors to know about life expectancy.

Remember the survival rates have been calculated at a particular point in time. So, it may be possible that advances in treatments in the later years might have improved the survival rates. So, it is recommended to always ask the doctor even when the general survival rates are known.

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References
American Cancer Society. Survival Rates for Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/laryngeal-and-hypopharyngeal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer: Statistics. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/laryngeal-and-hypopharyngeal-cancer/statistics

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