Throat cancer: signs, symptoms and complications

Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that occurs in the pharynx or larynx. The throat is important for many vital functions like eating, breathing, and speaking, so throat cancer symptoms can interfere with daily activities.

When cancerous tumors develop in the larynx or voice box, it can make you unable to speak. When cancerous tumors develop in the pharynx, it can interfere with your breathing, chewing, or swallowing.

Laura Porter / Very good


Common symptoms of throat cancer

Symptoms of throat cancer are largely determined by the location of the tumor in the head and neck area. Local spread of throat cancer to surrounding tissues of the pharynx and larynx can cause the following common symptoms:se

  • Persistent sore throat: It is the most common warning sign of throat cancer. Cancer of the pharynx can cause pain or discomfort in the throat that does not go away with swallowing.
  • Voice changes: Laryngeal cancer can change your voice, making you more hoarse or hoarse. You may also have difficulty pronouncing certain words or sounds.
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing: Difficulty swallowing is one of the first reported symptoms of throat cancer. Often people experience pain when swallowing or a burning sensation when chewing and swallowing food.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck: Swollen lymph nodes are a sign that your body is fighting an illness, so it’s no surprise that some people experience a lump in the neck because of an enlarged lymph node. In fact, it’s a common early sign of throat cancer, especially if the lump grows slowly and doesn’t go away.
  • Weightloss: Like all cancers, unexplained weight loss is a common symptom. It is important to note that weight loss can be further aggravated by difficulty eating due to painful swallowing.

Rare symptoms of throat cancer

To better protect yourself, it may be a good idea to educate yourself about some less common signs of throat cancer, such as:

  • Nose bleeds
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Cough blood
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Persistent nasal congestion
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Rigid jaw
  • Generalized swelling of the eyes, jaw, throat or neck

These symptoms are nonspecific, meaning they can be attributed to several illnesses like the common cold, so you might be less likely to think of throat cancer, but if they persist you may want to see your doctor. dentist or healthcare professional.

These symptoms are also less common as they develop at an advanced stage of the disease. However, the aggressiveness of throat cancer differs among people, so these rare symptoms may be more common or develop faster in some people than others. If it becomes increasingly difficult to eat, speak or swallow, seek immediate medical attention as these symptoms can be life threatening.

It should be noted that advanced disease can also lead to metastasis, that is, the spread of cancer throughout the body. This precipitates a whole host of symptoms depending on where the cancer is spreading. For example, throat cancer that metastasizes to the lungs can cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, while bone metastases can cause bone pain.

Complications of throat cancer


Most complications of throat cancer are attributed to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, difficulty eating or speaking and disfigurement of the face or neck are two common complications.

Depending on the extent of the cancer that needs to be removed, nearby structures may be compromised during surgery affecting the voice box and soft tissues of the pharynx, exacerbating your symptoms.

Radiation therapy can increase the risk of developing tooth decay and periodontal disease, as well as mucositis, thickened secretions, infections of the mucous membranes, pain, and sensory disturbances in the mouth and throat.se

When to consult a doctor

If you notice anything unusual about the way you feel or the way your body is functioning, especially if the abnormality persists or worsens, contact a healthcare practitioner. Although cancer can be unlikely in many cases, consulting a healthcare practitioner can allow your symptoms to be accurately diagnosed and treated. If you experience any life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or eating, or if you notice a large lump in the head or neck area, especially one that is causing you difficulty swallowing, seek immediate medical attention. doctor.

A word from Verywell

Many of the above symptoms will not lead to a diagnosis of throat cancer. Still, it’s important to stay alert for changes in the color and texture of your mouth and throat, especially with cancer rates on the rise, due to the recent increase in the use of tobacco products. Symptoms of throat cancer are easy to miss. To protect yourself, use a mirror to check the inside of your mouth and throat periodically, and also schedule regular dental check-ups.

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