Throat Cancer Symptoms

What are some of the throat cancer symptoms?

Throat cancer symptoms can greatly vary based on the size and location of the tumor. Many throat cancer symptoms can be confused for other health issues (a sore throat or ear pain for example), leading a patient to not seek medical attention as he or she should. If you exhibit any of the below throat cancer symptoms for more than two to three weeks it is advised that you visit your doctor and have him or her take a look. While the majority of people who exhibit these throat cancer symptoms do not have cancer, some will have it, and for those men and women early detection gives the best chance of survival. Some of the typical throat cancer symptoms in the pharynx and larynx include:

Throat Cancer Symptoms in the Pharynx

  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Pain in the neck that does not go away
  • Frequent headaches
  • Pain or ringing in the ears
  • Trouble hearing
  • Sinus infections that do no respond to antibiotics
  • Pain in the upper jaw
  • Nose bleeds

Throat Cancer Symptoms in the Larynx

  • Weight loss due to difficulty swallowing
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Lump or sore that does not heal
  • Constant ear pain
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • Trouble breathing
  • A cough that doesn’t go away

How does a doctor diagnose throat cancer?

If you exhibit any combination of these throat cancer symptoms a doctor will first evaluate your medical history, do a physical exam and probably run various tests to diagnose the cause. He or she will usually check your throat and neck for any lumps or swelling that are not normal. He or she may also stick a small mirror attached to a long handle or a lighted tube into your throat to check for any abnormalities. The doctor will often spray local anesthesia to help prevent you from gagging. These are all painless processes and are usually done in the doctor’s office.

If the doctor believes cancer is a possibility a biopsy will be taken from your throat. A biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue from the potentially cancerous area or areas. This is the only way to know for sure if an area contains cancerous cells. The tissues will usually be collected through a rigid tube inserted into your throat while you are under general anesthesia. The tissue is then looked at by a pathologist, who will check for the presence of cancer cells. If the sample is determined to be cancerous your doctor will probably run more tests to determine the stage of the cancer. This must be known for the doctor to best plan your treatment. Click here for more information on Throat Cancer Treatment.

The National Cancer Institute recommends that you ask the doctor all or some of the following questions to get a better understanding of having a biopsy on your throat.

  • Why do I need a biopsy?
  • How much tissue do you expect to remove?
  • How long will it take? Will I need general anesthesia?
  • Are there any risks? What are the chances of infection or bleeding after the biopsy? Will I lose my voice for a while?
  • Will I be able to eat and drink normally after the biopsy?
  • How long will it take for my throat to heal?
  • How soon will I know the results?
  • If I do have cancer, who will talk with me about treatment? When?

What if I want more information on throat cancer and throat cancer symptoms?

We recommend visiting our other pages on different areas of throat cancer to get a basic understanding of the disease. Our Throat Cancer Resource page can direct you to more in depth information on throat cancer, its symptoms and all other aspects of the disease.


Head and Neck Cancers. National Cancer Institute. Accessed January 9, 2012

What you need to know about Cancer of the Larynx. National Cancer Institute. Accessed January 8, 2012.


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    All content on this site is for general information purposes only. It is not and should not be considered medical advice or used in place of the advice of a medical professional. Always seek the advice of a doctor or other professional for any medical condition.