9 Early Signs of Throat Cancer Not to Overlook

This type of cancer compromises the health of the pharynx, larynx, esophagus, or tonsils, due to abnormal cell growth.
9 Early Signs of Throat Cancer Not to Overlook
Nelton Abdon Ramos Rojas

Written and verified by the doctor Nelton Abdon Ramos Rojas.

Last update: 08 August, 2022

There are certain early signs linked to throat cancer to which you must pay attention. Although they could well be symptoms of other illnesses, they’re symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.

Research suggests the worldwide cases of cancer of the larynx are about 3.9 per 100,000 people with a mortality rate of 2.0. However, there are more in some countries.

It’s thought that prevention strategies like early diagnosis are keys to reducing mortality rates. That said, the initial symptoms of cancer of the throat can be quite vague so it’s important to know how to recognize any possible early warning signs.

Throat cancer

This is an illness in which malignant tumors form in the pharynx, larynx, or tonsils. In other words, all of the area we know as “throat.”

Although this illness can affect anyone, it’s more common in smokers or those who’ve experienced human papillary virus (HPV).

Knowing the risk factors and possible symptoms can help in achieving an early diagnosis. In fact, it’s clear that early diagnosis is a determining factor for treatment be effective.

In order to obtain a timely diagnosis, it’s extremely important to know how to recognize the possible initial symptoms of throat cancer and to visit a doctor for a diagnosis.

9 early signs of throat cancer

1. Hoarseness or odd changes in the voice

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

Prolonged hoarseness for more than three weeks, or a sudden change in your voice, are enough reasons to visit a doctor. Sometimes, it could 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 might be hard to imagine that simple throat pain could be a symptom or a sign of throat cancer. After all, this kind of irritation is often caused by common respiratory illnesses. Nevertheless, if 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. Chronic bad breath

Bad breath that doesn’t go away despite good oral hygiene habits could be a sign of something more serious. You shouldn’t immediately assume that you have throat cancer, but neither you should rule it out.

Patients that develop this disease tend to experience real difficulty in controlling the smell of their breath. In fact, it persists even though they might use mouthwash or special oral hygiene products.

4. Difficulty breathing

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

5. Lumps in the neck

A woman with bulges in the neck.

The appearance of lumps in the neck can have various causes. In the case of throat cancer, they tend to occur when the tumor has spread to the lymphatic glands located around the throat. This sign should be enough reason to consult a doctor immediately as 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

6. The need to cough

Patients with respiratory problems or allergies tend to have recurring coughs due to the response of their 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, as the tumor advances, it can cause ulcers or bleeding.

7. Labored 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, laryngeal stridor, is the result of a tightening of the opening between the vocal cords. If it isn’t treated early, cancer could block it completely and lead to asphyxiation and subsequent death.

8. Difficulty swallowing

A woman with difficulty swallowing, one of the signs of throat cancer.

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

Furthermore, 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.

9. Other possible signs of throat cancer

As well as those we’ve already mentioned, there are other possible early signs of throat cancer. For example:

  • Earache
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Weight loss

Any doubts about these signs of throat cancer? Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor

Finally, if you’ve identified any of these symptoms and have doubts regarding your state of health, it’s crucial that you go immediately to a specialist.

The professional will recommend an endoscopy or other diagnostic tests. They’ll also be able to confirm if it’s throat cancer or not and suggest the best treatment options available.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.