Determining Your Prognosis

Your prognosis is a prediction of the outcome of your disease. What is the risk of succumbing to the cancer or the risk of it coming back? These are the big questions on most people’s minds after receiving a diagnosis of throat cancer. Prognosis is based on many factors, and a survival rate is an estimate based on large populations of patients who have been given a similar stage of their throat cancer. There are many specific factors that are unique to each patient that may influence treatment success.

The following aspects of the cancer may affect your prognosis.

 

Stage This is the most important factor that affects your chances of being cured.
Spread to Lymph NodesSpread of Cancer Cells Outside Lymph Node Capsule This goes along with stage, but even without other factors, if there is spread to lymph nodes in the neck, it’s a worse chance of cure, especially if there is evidence of spread of cancer outside of the lymph node.
Tumour Margins The ability to completely remove the tumour can be a very important factor that will influence the likelihood of being cured.
Spread into Local Structures Spread into large nerves, vessels, lymphatics or elsewhere might make your prognosis worse.

It is very difficult to discuss prognosis without understanding all the details of your cancer, and this is a conversation you’re better off having in person with your doctor.

What to Expect After Treatment is Completed?

Once you have made it through treatment, you need to have close follow-up with your doctorThis follow-up plan is recommended after being treated for a throat cancer:

  • 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.