Difference Between Esophageal and Throat Cancer

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Esophageal and Throat Cancer

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Cancer is the most deadly disease in today's world as it silently strikes you and develops quickly, spreading deadly cancer cells throughout the body. This can quietly kill someone who is unable to act against it from the starting. Many people often get confused between esophageal and throat cancers, and some doctors also insist they are the same, while others think they are different and affect the body independently.

Esophageal vs Throat Cancer

Because esophageal cancer starts in the esophagus and transports food from the mouth to the stomach, it is fundamentally different from throat cancer. On the other hand, throat cancer affects the larynx, hypopharynx, and oropharynx, and swollen lymph nodes are a sign of a coming illness. Esophageal cancer affects the esophagus, a long, hollow tube-like organ that runs from your mouth to your stomach. The passage of food from the stomach to the back of the throat, where food may digest, is aided by this tube.

Throat cancer is a term used to describe cancer that appears in the pharynx, or voice box, which is the larynx area. The throat is a muscular tube from just below the nose to the base of the neck. Throat cancer first appears in the flat cells covering the throats inside the wall.

Cancer is one of the diseases people fear the most because it can come on quickly and undetected, spreading cancer cells all over the body and killing people slowly but surely if they don't get the proper care.

Early detection of cancer may prevent its devastating effects.

  • When cancer is treated early on, chemotherapy, which may kill cancer cells and healthy cells throughout the patient's body, can ultimately cure the disease. However, if cancer is found too late, it might have disastrous effects on the patient. To effectively treat cancer, it is essential to pinpoint its exact origin. There are various misconceptions about esophageal and throat cancer. While some medical experts claim they are the same, others think they are different and may occur independently. To tell the difference between the two, you need to know enough about how the human body works and how cancer can affect different body parts.
  • The human throat area continues into the neck region and does not cease at the mouth. Several areas of the throat are vulnerable to infection by throat cancer, including the larynx, hypopharynx, and oropharynx. Inflammation of the lymph nodes in these areas indicates that cancer has already metastasized. The mouth, lips, voice box, and nasal canals may also be affected if the disease has progressed to more severe stages. Once cancer has spread to the back of the throat, it may be excruciating and hard to talk.However, esophageal cancer develops in the esophagus, the muscle-rich tube that carries food from the neck to the stomach. You guessed it. You're right.
  • Food is transported through the esophagus's muscles. The pharynx, which spans the neck and chest, is where esophageal cancer first appears before spreading to the esophagus. Patients with esophageal cancer must switch to a liquid-only diet since they cannot swallow solid food and are in excruciating agony. Once the disease has spread to a more advanced stage, it might become a tumor that causes regular vomiting. The victim will eventually become malnourished, putting them in a critical state.
  • While lymph node inflammation and tumor development are the same starting points for both throat and esophageal cancer, they manifest in very different places. As long as you are familiar with the digestive system's components, it should be simple to differentiate one from the other. If either cancer type is not found early on, it can be deadly. They both have symptoms like being unable to swallow and being in a lot of pain, but esophageal cancer is worse because it makes it impossible to eat solid food.

On the other hand, a person with throat cancer could have trouble speaking but still be able to eat solid meals and wouldn't be at risk of being hungry.

Last but not least, there is a significant distinction between the elements that might exacerbate or speed their development. The leading causes of throat cancer are smoking too much and drinking too much, while the leading causes of esophageal cancer are chronic reflux and drinking too much.

Difference Between Esophageal and Throat Cancer in Tabular Form

Parameter of comparison Esophageal Cancer Throat Cancer
Definition The esophagus, a long, thin tube, is impacted by cancer. The various throat regions are affected by this malignancy.
Cause It happens when the DNA of the cells in the esophagus changes. It happens when the cells in the neck begin to experience mutations that make them increase unnaturally.
Signs and symptoms food swallowing difficulties, chest pain, weight loss, etc. Symptoms as a sore throat, earache, voice alteration, etc.
Affected area The esophagus, which originates in the mouth and empties into the stomach, is affected by esophageal cancer. The voice box and higher or lower portions of the throat are affected by throat cancer.
Treatment Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, gastrostomy, esophagogastrectomy, and esophagectomy operations are all part of the treatment. Laryngectomy, Neck dissection, and Flap are further treatment options, along with chemotherapy, PEG, and radiation.

What is Esophageal Cancer?

The food ingested from the mouth travels to the stomach through the esophagus, a long, hollow, muscular tube. Esophageal cancer develops when an infectious tumor forms in the inner lining of this tube. This tumor can be found anywhere between where the tube starts and where it joins the stomach. As it grows, it affects the muscles and tissues deep inside the esophagus.

Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are the two kinds of esophageal cancer that can occur. When cancer develops in the esophagus's flat cell lining, squamous cell carcinoma is discovered.

Although it can occur anywhere, this esophageal cancer is typically detected around the top or center of the esophagus. The other type of esophageal cancer is adenocarcinoma, which originates and progresses in the epithelial cells that generate mucus in the esophagus. This form of esophageal cancer is located in the lower portion of the esophagus. The patient has several indications and symptoms during the early stages of esophageal cancer, such as weight loss, nausea, heartburn, persistent coughing, hiccups, etc. Similar to most malignancies, the exact etiology of esophageal cancer is unknown. But it is thought that DNA changes in cells cause them to make too many copies of themselves, which leads to esophageal cancer in the body.

Esophageal Cancer Stages

Following an esophageal cancer diagnosis, medical professionals will attempt to determine whether and how far the disease has progressed. The staging procedure is what it is. The disease's stage determines how much cancer is present in the body. It helps evaluate cancer's severity and the most effective course of treatment. When discussing survival rates, doctors also refer to the stage of the malignancy.

Stage 0 refers to the very early stages of esophageal cancer (high-grade dysplasia). Stage I (1) to stage IV are then included (4). The lower the number, the less cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage IV, indicates that cancer has progressed more widely. A lower stage is indicated by an earlier letter inside a stage. Although every person's experience with cancer is different, tumors at comparable stages typically have a similar prognosis and are frequently treated similarly.

The epithelium, the innermost layer of the esophagus, is where most esophageal cancers begin, and over time they spread into deeper layers.

What is Throat Cancer?

Throat cancer is a kind of cancer that appears in the pharynx and larynx regions of your throat. There is a tube called the throat from the nose to the neck. The inner cell lining of the throat is initially impacted by throat cancer. The larynx, or voice box, is located just under the neck and is susceptible to throat cancer. The vocal cords in the larynx, which are made of cartilage, move back and forth to make a sound while you speak.

Even though most throat cancers are made up of the same kind of cells, a few terms can be used to tell them apart based on where the cancer is in the neck.

The nasopharynx, the area just behind the nose, is where nasopharyngeal cancers grow. Oropharyngeal cancer, as its name suggests, starts in the oropharynx. This is the area behind the mouth where the tonsils are.

Cancer of the hypopharynx above the esophagus affects the bottom part of the throat. The vocal cords are impacted by glottic carcinoma. Supraglottic carcinoma affects the cartilage that prevents food from falling into the windpipe and develops at the top of the larynx. And the voice box's lower portion experiences subglottic cancer development. These tumors immediately impact the throat, resulting in symptoms such as coughing, voice changes, sore throats, trouble swallowing, etc.

Types of Throat Cancer

The two most prevalent kinds of throat cancer are pharyngeal and laryngeal carcinoma. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), laryngeal cancer will cause 3,770 fatalities and 12,620 new diagnoses in the US in 2021. When cancerous cells grow in the tissues of the larynx, often known as the "voice box," laryngeal cancer develops. Your larynx makes your voice distinctive and aids in swallowing.

There are three sections to the larynx, and any one can develop cancer:

  • The supraglottic region is located above the vocal folds.
  • The vocal cords are situated in the central portion of the body, the glottis.
  • The subglottis is the area below the vocal cords that connects the larynx to the windpipe.
  • Glottic carcinoma is another name for vocal cord malignancy. These three kinds of pharyngeal carcinoma are recognized:
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer develops in the region behind the nose, at the top of the throat, where it is found. Air enters the body through the nose, throat, and nasopharynx on its route to the lungs when you take a breath.
  • Oropharyngeal cancer develops beyond the mouth, in the center of the throat. The respiratory and digestive systems receive help from the oropharynx.
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer develops in the lower portion of the throat, just above the larynx. Food enters the esophagus through a hole in the hypopharynx (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach).

Among a wide variety of head and neck malignancies, including throat cancers, the numerous head and neck malignancies also contain several layers, much like nesting dolls, and are all localized in a narrow region around the head, mouth, and throat.

Most throat and 90% of all head and neck cancers are caused by squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer starts in the thin, flat cells that line a large part of the throat.

Oropharyngeal cancers are frequently grouped with other oral cavity malignancies, such as those that affect the tongue, cheeks, gums, lips, and hard palate, the bony roof of the mouth. In 2021, it was expected that 54,010 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancer would be found in the United States.

The Primary Distinctions Between Esophageal and Throat Cancer in Points

  • While throat cancer affects the pharynx and larynx regions of the throat, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus.
  • Unlike throat cancer, which starts in the pharynx and larynx, esophageal cancer starts in the lining of the walls of the esophagus.
  • While throat cancer begins in the voice box and spreads to other areas of the throat, including the lips, mouth, and nasal cavity, esophageal cancer begins in the cell linings. It spreads throughout the esophagus as it matures.
  • While throat cancer results from unchecked cell development, esophageal cancer is brought on by DNA alterations in esophageal cells.
  • People with throat cancer can't talk, but people with esophageal cancer will be very sick because they won't be able to eat.


Finally, it should be noted that both throat and esophageal cancer are serious diseases that, if left untreated, can prove lethal or even result in death. Since they may be found anywhere from the back of the nose to the stomach, some individuals often mistake the two and think they are the same.

While throat cancer can attack any portion of the throat, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus. Both malignancies' first stages are marked by inflammation of the lymph nodes. While throat cancer can grow anywhere in the throat and render a person silent, esophageal cancer starts in the cell membrane of the esophagus and travels throughout the tube.


  • https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ctm2.129
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889855309000053


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"Difference Between Esophageal and Throat Cancer." Diffzy.com, 2024. Sun. 19 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-esophageal-and-throat-cancer-1038>.

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