10 Symptoms of Throat Cancer

By 100 Answers Staff Writer Article Sources

Throat cancer refers to cancerous tumors that develop in the throat, voice box, or tonsils. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment, so it’s essential to recognize the symptoms. This article will discuss 10 symptoms of throat cancer that you should be aware of.

Hoarseness or Voice Changes

One of the first signs of throat cancer is a change in the sound of your voice. You may experience hoarseness, a raspy voice, or a complete loss of voice. If these changes persist for more than two weeks, consult a doctor[[1]].

hoarseness voice-changes


Difficulty Swallowing

Throat cancer can cause difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia. This may feel like food is getting stuck in your throat or cause pain when swallowing[[1]].

difficulty swallowing


Persistent Cough

A persistent cough that lasts for several weeks can be a symptom of throat cancer. This cough may be dry or produce mucus, and it may sometimes cause coughing up blood[[2]].

persistent cough


Sore Throat

A sore throat that doesn’t go away after a few weeks could be a sign of throat cancer. This pain may be constant or occur only when swallowing[[1]].

sore throat


Swollen Lymph Nodes

Throat cancer can cause swollen lymph nodes in the neck. These nodes may feel like small, painless lumps under the skin[[1]].

swollen lymph-nodes


Ear Pain

Ear pain or hearing loss can be a symptom of throat cancer, as the tumor may press on nerves or other structures in the head and neck area[[2]].

ear pain


Unexplained Weight Loss

Unintentional weight loss can be a symptom of throat cancer, as the difficulty swallowing may lead to a reduced appetite and inadequate nutrition[[1]].

unexplained weight-loss


Breathing Difficulties

Throat cancer can cause breathing difficulties, such as shortness of breath or noisy breathing, known as stridor. This may be due to the tumor obstructing the airway[[3]].

breathing difficulties


Changes in the Skin

Throat cancer can cause changes in the skin, such as red or white patches in the mouth or throat, or a lump on the lip or in the mouth[[2]].

changes in-skin


Bad Breath

Persistent bad breath, despite good oral hygiene, can be a symptom of throat cancer. This may be due to the tumor causing an infection or producing an unpleasant odor[[2]].

In conclusion, recognizing the symptoms of throat cancer is crucial for early detection and successful treatment. If you experience any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, consult a healthcare professional. Remember that many of these symptoms can also be caused by less serious conditions, so it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis.

bad breath


Similar Conditions

In addition to throat cancer, there are other conditions with similar symptoms. Here are some:

Laryngitis: This inflammation of the larynx, or voice box, can cause hoarseness and voice changes.

Tonsillitis or pharyngitis: Infections of the tonsils or pharynx can cause throat pain, difficulty swallowing, and swelling in the neck.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): GERD can lead to persistent cough, hoarseness, and throat pain.

Thyroid Disorders: Disorders of the thyroid gland, such as hypothyroidism or thyroid nodules, can cause changes in voice, difficulty swallowing, and neck swelling.

Vocal Cord Nodules or Polyps: These benign growths on the vocal cords can cause hoarseness, voice changes, and sometimes throat pain.

Allergies, Asthma, or Chronic Sinusitis: These conditions can cause persistent cough, wheezing, and sometimes throat pain.

Esophageal Disorders: Conditions such as achalasia or esophageal stricture can cause difficulty swallowing and sometimes chest or throat pain.

It’s important to note that these conditions generally present with milder symptoms than throat cancer and don’t typically cause unexplained weight loss or blood in the cough unless there is a severe underlying condition or complication. If you have any symptoms that worry you, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.



There a number of causes that can contribute to throat cancer. Some of the common causes and risk factors are:

Tobacco Use: This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff. Tobacco use is the most significant risk factor for throat cancer.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Heavy drinking, especially when combined with smoking, greatly increases the risk of throat cancer.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Certain types of HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, have been associated with throat cancer. HPV type 16 in particular is often linked to cancers of the oropharynx (the middle part of the throat that includes the tonsils and base of the tongue).

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Chronic reflux of stomach acid into the throat (acid reflux) can cause irritation that may lead to changes in the cells of the throat over time, potentially leading to throat cancer. However, this is a relatively rare cause compared to tobacco and alcohol use.

A Diet Lacking in Fruits and Vegetables: Diets low in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of throat cancer.

Exposure to Certain Chemicals:: Exposure to certain chemicals, including asbestos and certain synthetic fibers, can increase the risk of throat cancer.

Previous Radiation Treatment: People who have had radiation therapy to the head, neck, or chest may have an increased risk of developing throat cancer.

Gender, Age, and Race: Throat cancer is more common in men than in women, more common as people age, and certain types of throat cancer are more common among people of certain races or ethnicities.

Certain Genetic Syndromes: Some inherited genetic syndromes can increase the risk of throat cancer, such as Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita.

It’s important to note that having one or more risk factors does not guarantee that an individual will develop throat cancer. However, reducing risk factors where possible, such as tobacco and alcohol use, can help lower the risk. Regular check-ups can also help with early detection and treatment.



Treatment for throat cancer usually depends on the stage and location of the disease, as well as the patient’s overall health. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy are the main treatments. Often a combination of these approaches is used.

Surgery: Several surgical options exist depending on the type and stage of cancer. They may include:

- Removing cancer only involves taking out the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding it.
- Removing part of the throat: This procedure, called a partial laryngectomy, involves removing part of the throat.
- Removing the voice box: This procedure, called a total laryngectomy, involves removing the voice box (larynx).
- Removing lymph nodes and other tissues in the neck.
- Reconstructive surgery: Following cancer surgery, this may be needed to help restore the function and appearance of areas affected by surgery.

Radiation therapy: This uses high-energy rays (such as X-rays) to kill or shrink cancer cells. It can be administered externally, by a machine that directs radiation at the cancer, or internally (brachytherapy), where radiation is placed inside the body near the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy: This uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) to shrink a tumor so it can be removed more easily, or after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to kill any remaining cancer cells. It can also be given with radiation therapy.

Targeted therapy: These drugs specifically target cancer cells. They work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs and often have different (and usually milder) side effects. They can be used alone or in combination with other treatments.

Immunotherapy: This treatment helps the immune system fight cancer. It can be used for certain types of advanced throat cancer or has returned after treatment.

Additionally, rehabilitation, including speech therapy and dietetic support, are essential aspects of recovery, significantly when surgery or radiation has affected the ability to speak or swallow. In cases where speech is severely affected, learning alternative ways of speaking may be necessary.

Follow-up care to monitor for cancer recurrence is critical to the treatment plan, as throat cancer can often return after treatment.

It’s important to understand the potential benefits, drawbacks, and side effects of the different treatment options with a healthcare team to make the most informed decision.

hoarseness voice-changes


The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a qualified healthcare provider before starting any program. Reliance on any information is solely at your own risk. In case of a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

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