8 Early Signs of Throat Cancer That You Mustn't Ignore

This type of cancer compromises the health of the pharynx, larynx, esophagus, or tonsils, due to abnormal cell growth.
8 Early Signs of Throat Cancer That You Mustn't Ignore

Last update: 08 April, 2021

Throat cancer is the growth of malignant tumors in the pharynx, larynx, or tonsils. In other words, what encompasses the throat.

Although it can affect anybody, people with the highest risk of developing it are people who smoke or people who have suffered the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Knowing the risk factors and symptoms makes it easier to get professional help on time. After all, early detection is the best way to make treatment more successful.

In order to get an early diagnosis, it’s very important to know the possible early symptoms of throat cancer and to see a doctor for a checkup.

1. Hoarseness or odd changes in your voice

Abnormal cell growth in the throat can start at the vocal cords. For this reason, one of the first signs of throat cancer is a notable change in the tone of your voice.

Prolonged hoarseness for more than three weeks, or a sudden change in your voice, are sufficient reasons to visit a doctor. Sometimes, it may be caused by infections or problems associated with smoking. However, it may also be due to throat cancer.

A woman touching her throat.

2. Throat pain

It’s difficult to consider a simple throat pain as a symptom or a sign of throat cancer. Often, this irritation is caused by an infection of common respiratory illness. However, when it’s persistent or appears intermittently, you should see a doctor to find out what’s causing it.

The appearance of tumors in the area can lead to the recurrence of this symptom. In fact, it manifests itself more intensely when swallowing or when you strain your voice.

3. Bad breath

If you have bad breath that doesn’t go away with good oral hygiene habits, it could be a sign of something more serious. You shouldn’t immediately assume you have throat cancer, but you shouldn’t rule it out, either.

Patients that develop this disease tend to have a lot of difficulties controlling the smell of their breath. This persists even though they might use mouthwash or special oral hygiene products.

4. Difficulty breathing

Difficulty breathing, also known as dyspnea, is a symptom and early sign of throat cancer that might signal obstruction in the respiratory tracts. It can be caused by a serious infection, but also could be a sign of tumors.

5. Bulges in the neck

A woman with bulges in the neck.

The appearance of bulges in the neck can be caused by various things. In this case, in particular, it tends to occur because the tumor has managed to spread to the lymphatic glands located around the throat. This sign should be considered a good reason to visit a doctor immediately since it might be a sign that the cancer is getting worse.

According to the experts at the American Cancer Association, other possible signs and symptoms of oropharyngeal and oral cavity cancer are:

  • A lump or thickening in the cheek.
  • A lump or mass in the neck.

This article may interest you: Five Possible Symptoms of Tongue Cancer

6. The need to cough

Patients with respiratory problems or allergies tend to have recurring coughs due to the response of the immune system to the presence of a foreign agent.

When there’s a problem in the throat, this cough can become chronic. At first, it may appear to be a dry cough, accompanied by irritation. Then, when the tumor advances, it can cause ulcers or bleeding.

7. Noisy breathing

When the tumor isn’t addressed early, the cancerous cells continue dividing and causing pain in the surrounding tissues. As a consequence, they cause an obstruction in the respiratory tracts, causing noise every time the person inhales.

This noise is known as laryngeal stridor and it’s the result of a tightening of the opening between the vocal cords. If it isn’t treated early, cancer could block it completely and cause asphyxiation and death.

8. Difficulty swallowing

A woman with difficulty swallowing.

Most patients with early signs of throat cancer begin to suffer significant weight loss due to the difficulty of chewing or swallowing food.

The presence of tumors narrows the esophageal opening and causes food to get stuck. In turn, this causes muscle weakness and increases the recurrence of acid reflux.

Doubts? Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor

After identifying these symptoms and you have doubts regarding your state of health. it’s crucial that you go immediately to a specialist. The professional will evaluate you and tell you if it’s throat cancer or what the best treatment option for your case is.

In order to determine if it’s cancer, your doctor may recommend an endoscopy or imaging tests.

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  • GBD 2015 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence, Collaborators. (8 October 2016).
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