Janet Jackson, the pop icon and sister of the late Michael Jackson, will undergo throat surgery to treat a suspected cancerous growth, according to reports.

On Christmas Eve, Jackson announced on Twitter she was postponing her "Unbreakable" tour for an unspecified medical procedure.

RadarOnline, an entertainment Website, reported Wednesday that Jackson had been diagnosed with a tumor on her vocal cords.

Her "Unbreakable" tour had been scheduled to make stops at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 24 and at the Sands in Bethlehem on Feb. 19.
 
Jackson appeared optimistic about the outcome of the surgery and certain that she'll be able to perform again.
"Gon' b alright," Jackson wrote in an a Dec. 24 message to her fans.

Every date of the tour will be rescheduled, she assured her Twitter followers.

"Please hold on to your tickets. They will be honored in a special way when the new schedule is announced. Please pray for me, my family and our entire company during this difficult time. There will be no further comment."

To get more insight into what Jackson may be facing, we spoke with Miriam Lango, a head and neck cancer surgeon at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Lango is not involved in Jackson's care, but spoke generally about throat tumors.

Janet Jackson has announced she needs throat surgery, how likely is it that it is for cancer?

It's hard to tell from the information that she has released what the purpose of her surgery is. Patients must be put to sleep to do a biopsy and confirm a diagnosis of cancer. The surgery may have been recommended to figure out what is going on.

Could the surgery be for something other than cancer?

Certainly the surgery may have been recommended to further evaluate an abnormality in her larynx. A biopsy will determine whether she has cancer. If cancer is identified, additional treatment will likely be needed, such as radiation or additional surgery.

How common is throat cancer?

Throat cancers, also known as oropharyngeal cancers, must be distinguished from larynx cancer. Larynx cancers affect the vocal cords primarily. Throat cancers that arise in the tonsil or base of the tongue and may grow to involve the vocal cords. Both are relatively rare. Larynx cancer is the 20th most common cancer in the United States, and oropharynx cancer is slightly more common. However, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer caused by the human papilloma virus or HPV has been increasing.

What are its causes?  How is it diagnosed? What are the initial symptoms?

Throat cancers are categorized both by the structures involved by the cancer as well as the causes of the cancer. For example, cancers that involve the back of the tongue or tonsil are called oropharyngeal cancer, while those that involve the vocal cord are known as larynx cancers. Some throat cancers are caused by the human papilloma virus or HPV. Most cancers that involve the vocal cords are not caused by HPV but are more closely associated with a history of smoking. A biopsy is necessary to establish the diagnosis. The most common initial symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include a lump in the neck, persistent sore throat or changes in swallowing. The most common initial symptoms of larynx cancer include voice change or hoarseness.


What are the most common treatments for throat cancer? Is surgery the first step? After surgery then what?

The treatment for oropharynx or larynx cancer depends on how advanced the cancer is. For example, if the cancer is relatively small and hasn't spread, it may be treated using one modality such as surgery or radiation. However, if the cancer is more advanced, more treatment is needed. Most commonly, surgery is followed by radiation, or radiation is combined with chemotherapy.

If we assume the surgery is for cancer, how long is the recovery period?

There are many types of operations available to treat cancers of the oropharynx and larynx. People who are candidates for minimally invasive surgery may recover quickly and with few long-term side effects. However, a more advanced cancer that requires more extended treatment is associated with a longer recovery and greater long-term side effects.

After surgery will she be able to sing again?

Certainly she may be able to. It all depends on the nature and extent of the cancer and the treatment needed to help her beat it.

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