More than 20 years after Michael Douglas won an Oscar for Best Actor in the hit movie Wall Street, the actor is back in the limelight with the long-awaited sequel, Wall Street 2, and his recent announcement that he is battling stage IV throat cancer.

After complaining of a persistent sore throat, Douglas made numerous visits to doctors before they discovered a walnut-sized lump on the back of his tongue. Despite the advanced stage of Douglas' cancer, his prognosis is good; he has a five-year survival rate of about 80 percent.

Throat cancers are part of the larger category of head and neck cancers, which account for three to five percent of all cancers. The National Cancer Institute predicts approximately 25,000 people will develop throat cancer in 2010. The throat includes the pharynx-the five-inch tube behind the nose the leads to the esophagus and trachea-and the larynx, or the voice box. Throat cancer usually begins in the tissues that line these organs.

The primary risk factors for throat cancer are tobacco use and alcohol consumption. In fact, physicians link 85 percent of head and neck cancers to tobacco use. Tobacco and alcohol are each significant risk factors, but in combination, a user's risk of developing throat cancer increases exponentially. Douglas admits his cancer is attributable to his lifestyle choices.

Exposure to asbestos, insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) are also risk factors. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that also causes cervical cancer. Physicians believe HPV infection may be to blame for the rise in throat cancers, especially in younger adults. HPV infection causes a different type of head and neck cancer; however, it generally responds well to treatment.

In addition to the telltale lingering sore throat, other symptoms of throat cancer include a lump or sore that doesn't heal, difficulty swallowing, change or hoarseness in voice, ear pain, and an unexplained cough.

Treatment for throat cancer may include surgery to remove the cancer and some of the surrounding tissue or lymph nodes, radiation, and chemotherapy. The course of treatment depends on the size, location, and stage of the tumor. Douglas is undergoing all three types of treatment.

Throat cancer treatments may affect a patient's ability to swallow or speak, or may alter their appearance. If you have throat cancer, it's important to discuss the pros and cons of all treatment options with your physician so you can make informed decisions about what's best for you.

Black, Rosemary. "Could throat tumor battle cost Michael Douglas his voice?" NY Daily News. Web. 18 August 2010.

National Cancer Institute. "Head and Neck Cancer: Questions and Answers." Web. 9 March 2005.

Stacy, Kelli Miller. "HPV-Positive Throat Cancer Responds Better to Treatment." Medscape Medical News. Web. 14 May 2008.

James, Susan Donaldson. "Can Michael Douglas Beat Throat Cancer?" ABC News. Web. 1 September 2010.