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Throat Cancers

Signs and Symptoms of Throat Cancer

Since throat cancer is such a general term for cancers in many different locations, the signs and symptoms are fairly broad. A cancer in the nasopharynx (behind the nose) will probably have different symptoms than a cancer in the larynx (the voice box). There are certainly some similarities, but you should investigate specific types of throat cancer to learn about symptoms specific to a certain part of the throat.

In general, symptoms that come for a while and then go away are typically less likely to be cancer.

Some symptoms that might be related to a throat cancer include10, Wei WI, Sham JS. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Lancet. Jun 11-17 2005;365(9476):2041-2054.11Hoare TJ, Thomson HG, Proops DW. Detection of laryngeal cancer--the case for early specialist assessment. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Jul 1993;86(7):390-392.:

  • A hoarse voice
  • Pain or difficulty with swallowing
  • A sore throat
  • A lump or a bump in the neck
  • Ear pain on one side with no other ear problems
  • Feeling like there’s something stuck in your throat
  • Bleeding from the throat
  • Coughing or choking every time you drink liquid
  • Difficult or noisy breathing
  • Numbness in a certain part of the face
  • A change in speech or tongue movement
  • Unexplained weight loss

But don’t jump to any conclusions. You could have one or more of these symptoms but NOT have a throat cancer. There are several non-cancerous causes of the same symptoms. That’s why you need to see a specialist.

References

1 Moore C. Smoking and cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association. Jan 25 1965;191(4):283-286.

2 Pelucchi C, Gallus S, Garavello W, Bosetti C, La Vecchia C. Cancer risk associated with alcohol and tobacco use: focus on upper aero-digestive tract and liver. Alcohol research & health: the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2006;29(3):193-198.

3 Little MP. Cancer after exposure to radiation in the course of treatment for benign and malignant disease. The lancet oncology. Apr 2001;2(4):212-220.

4 D'Souza G, Kreimer AR, Viscidi R, et al. Case-control study of human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal cancer. The New England journal of medicine. May 10 2007;356(19):1944-1956.

5 Hildesheim A, Berrington de Gonzalez A. Etiology and prevention of cervical adenocarcinomas. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Mar 1 2006;98(5):292-293.

6 Armstrong RW, Armstrong MJ, Yu MC, Henderson BE. Salted fish and inhalants as risk factors for nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Malaysian Chinese. Cancer research. Jun 1983;43(6):2967-2970.

7 Larsson LG, Sandstrom A, Westling P. Relationship of Plummer-Vinson disease to cancer of the upper alimentary tract in Sweden. Cancer research. Nov 1975;35(11 Pt. 2):3308-3316.

8 El-Serag HB, Hepworth EJ, Lee P, Sonnenberg A. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a risk factor for laryngeal and pharyngeal cancer. Am J Gastroenterol. Jul 2001;96(7):2013-8.

9 Vaezi MF, Qadeer MA, Lopez R, Colabianchi N. Laryngeal cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease: a case-control study. Am J Med. Sep 2006;119(9):768-76.

10 Wei WI, Sham JS. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Lancet. Jun 11-17 2005;365(9476):2041-2054.

11 Hoare TJ, Thomson HG, Proops DW. Detection of laryngeal cancer--the case for early specialist assessment. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Jul 1993;86(7):390-392.

12 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Head and Neck Cancers V.2.2016. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed December 7, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org.