A tumor in the area of the trachea (windpipe) is referred to as tracheal cancer, which belongs to the so-called head and neck tumors. Tracheal cancer is a malignant tumor. The 5-year survival rate is around 5 percent.
What is tracheal cancer?
According to Photionary, a tracheal carcinoma (also called tracheal carcinoma ), i.e. tracheal cancer, is a very rare type of tumor that is classified as a head and neck tumor. As a rule, epidermoid tumors appear; subsequently, an adenocarcinoma can form. Tracheal cancer is rarely a primary tumor; as a rule, tracheal cancer is a secondary tumor that has been triggered by an existing cancer (spread).
Tracheal carcinoma can occur for a variety of reasons. Smokers in particular are at risk of developing it. According to the researchers, tobacco and carcinogenic ingredients promote the development of tracheal cancer. Excessive consumption of high-proof alcohol can also be a trigger. Other harmful substances are car exhaust fumes, asbestos, radioactive substances and arsenic.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
As a rule, it is not a primary tumour, so that tracheal cancer often develops as a result of the spread of another tumour. The clinical symptoms that occur in the context of cancer are different and varied. On the one hand, the patients complain of frequent coughing, on the other hand of bloody sputum or difficulty breathing.
Furthermore, the tumor can have an impact on voice formation and cause swallowing difficulties. Patients usually lose weight, have frequent fevers, and are often tired. Furthermore, those affected suffer from nausea and loss of appetite; sometimes the patients complain about skin changes and severe itching.
Diagnosis & disease progression
Diagnostics play an important role, especially for therapy. The tumor must be determined for its histological type, size and extent. At the beginning, the doctor seeks a conversation with the patient and obtains information about cancer diseases that have already occurred. The pharynx, the nasal and oral cavity and the larynx are then examined.
Blood tests and X-rays follow, these being carried out in two planes – front and side. In order to be sure whether a tumor is present or not, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a computed tomography (MRI) are also ordered, so that there is a better visualization of the soft tissues. The sputum is also examined; In this way, the doctor can determine whether there are infectious changes or existing inflammations.
If tracheal cancer is suspected, endoscopic procedures – such as bronchoscopy – are performed. In the end, the doctor should know how big the tumor is and whether it has already spread. In the case of cancer, the so-called five-year survival rate (“5-JÜR”) is used.
This is a prognostic value. Patients who have lung cancer and have metastases in the trachea, resulting in tracheal cancer, have a five-year survival rate of just five percent. Of course, the stage and extent of the tumor also play an important role. The prognosis improves when the tumor is diagnosed at an early stage of the disease.
Such a serious disease as tracheal cancer is fraught with various complications. Many affected people suffer from severe restrictions in terms of daily food intake. In particularly bad cases, those with tracheal cancer may even need artificial feeding. This complication, in turn, triggers another circumstance.
Many people who suffer from tracheal cancer therefore have problems with being severely underweight. The following generally applies: In the case of the serious illness of trachea cancer, medical treatment is absolutely necessary. The chances of survival without treatment are almost zero. Nevertheless, serious and also minor complications of medical and drug treatment are unavoidable. Pain when eating is inevitable, as are numerous side effects that can be caused by the long-term use of various medications.
The side effects just mentioned include permanent headaches, nausea, vomiting, an elevated temperature and body aches. In general, therefore, the following applies: In the case of tracheal cancer, various complications are unfortunately unavoidable. However, if you consult a doctor when various complications occur, you can alleviate the existing complications or even eliminate them completely.
When should you go to the doctor?
Of course, tracheal cancer must be treated medically and with medication. Otherwise, the person concerned faces certain death. The timing of the diagnosis is crucial to a full recovery. The earlier the tracheal cancer is diagnosed, the better and more effectively an appropriate treatment can be initiated. For this reason, the first signs and symptoms should not be trivialized. The visit to the doctor must be mandatory and timely so that the cancer can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage. However, even with an early diagnosis, there is no guarantee of a complete cure.
Affected people who have advanced tracheal cancer are often only able to alleviate the symptoms. Anyone who completely foregoes a doctor’s visit at this point must expect a significant worsening of the symptoms. The pain increases significantly, so that the affected person will be very limited in their everyday life. For this reason, the following applies: Tracheal cancer must always be treated by a doctor or even as an inpatient. Otherwise, the chances of recovery are very poor, so that in the worst case even death can occur.
Treatment & Therapy
The therapies are extremely extensive and interdisciplinary. This means that doctors from different areas – such as surgery, internal medicine, cancer medicine and also from psychotherapy – are consulted, who then take care of the optimal treatment and care. Which therapy is carried out at the end of course depends on the type and size of the tumor.
In addition, it must be determined at what stage the tumor is, whether other cancers are already present or whether the tracheal tumor has already spread. Radiation and/or chemotherapy is recommended at the beginning. In many cases there is a metastasis – i.e. a spread of the cancer cells – that an operation rarely brings the desired success. As a rule, the physicians therefore deal with the palliative care of the patient.
On the one hand, the patient’s pain should be relieved, while on the other hand care should be taken to improve or at least maintain the quality of life. Doctors try to keep the airways open so the patient doesn’t feel short of breath or have trouble breathing. In order to ensure that the airways are kept open, the tumor is surgically reduced with a laser.
In a few cases, if it is no longer possible to reduce the size of the tumor, a tracheotomy is required. Of course, chemotherapy also has side effects, so patients can suffer from ANE syndrome. This leads to loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting (anorexia, nausea and emesis). Patients are treated to minimize side effects; mainly there are medicines against nausea and painkillers.
It is important that the patient is also accompanied psychotherapeutically. Since the disease causes a lot of stress and many patients cannot cope with the pressure, they therefore need encouragement and support in everyday life.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for tracheal cancer is linked to the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis and the start of treatment. If you have advanced cancer, your chances of recovery are greatly reduced. If no therapy is used, the disease ends with the premature death of the person concerned. The cancer cells can spread unhindered in the organism and are transported to other parts of the body via the bloodstream. Metastases form there, until ultimately there are no longer any chances of recovery.
The treatment options for tracheal cancer come with numerous side effects and risks. An impairment of the quality of life takes place in the long term. Nevertheless, it is the only way to alleviate existing symptoms. The sooner the therapy can start and the better the general state of health of the person concerned, the more optimistic the prognosis. Surgical intervention is often carried out and a tracheotomy is the only possibility of relief.
The burden of the disease and the therapy can lead to health problems. This further worsens the prognosis. Patients who have successfully recovered from tracheal cancer can develop the cancer again later in life. In most cases, the prognosis on recurrence is worse because the organism is weakened overall.
If the doctor diagnoses tracheal cancer, it can be a primary or secondary tumor. Usually, tracheal cancer is the result of a pre-existing tumor (lung carcinoma). Since tracheal cancer is favored by excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption and by various substances (aspect, arsenic and the like), such products should be avoided.
After the actual cancer treatment, those affected need ongoing care. In addition to regular medical examinations and the use of other therapies, this also includes a change in lifestyle for aftercare. This includes regular exercise and a balanced diet, whereby physical exertion should be carefully resumed. Especially with tracheal cancer, it can take a long time before the usual quality of life is restored.
The support of the responsible doctors as well as acquaintances and friends is also important when dealing with the illness. The general practitioner can call in cancer counseling centres, psycho-oncologists and social law contacts. Visiting a self-help group is also an important part of aftercare. Depending on the type of cancer, nutritionists, sports groups and other authorities must also be consulted.
The aftercare plan is drawn up together with the doctor and is based on the severity of the symptoms, the general course of the disease and the prognosis. In the first phase, when patients are still processing the consequences of the disease and treatment, aftercare is particularly important. This also includes support from family and friends, which can also prevent the development of mental disorders.
The key is to support patients until remission is achieved. The risk of recurrence decreases every year. The rule of thumb is five years, although the type of cancer is also decisive here. Medical rehabilitation may also include taking anti-hormones and other medications. In the case of protracted illnesses, follow-up checks and aftercare go hand in hand.
You can do that yourself
Diet is of particular importance in the treatment of tracheal cancer, as the tumor often causes severe swallowing difficulties and makes it difficult to eat.
Those affected should therefore consult a nutritionist, preferably before starting treatment, to stabilize their weight. If swallowing difficulties are the reason for malnutrition or malnutrition, it is often necessary to switch to tube feeding. This requires a minor surgical procedure in which a probe is inserted from the abdominal wall into the stomach. Although the procedure is largely harmless, many patients find it uncomfortable.
If the swallowing difficulties still allow the intake of liquid food through the throat, those affected can have recipes for porridge and smoothies put together by a nutritionist. The smoothies are very tasty and consist of finely ground nuts and seeds, which provide a lot of energy, as well as green vegetables and high-quality linseed oil. A dietary supplement is usually added to prevent a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
In addition to nutrition, the psyche also plays a major role. For many patients, the diagnosis of cancer is initially a shock that they have to deal with. Membership in a self-help group can help with this. However, patients should not shy away from seeking the help of a psychotherapist if they feel mentally stressed.