Can White Spots on the Throat Be Cancer?

Medically Reviewed on 11/9/2021
white spots on tonsils
White spots on the throat rarely indicate cancer; however, they may be the result of the following medical conditions.

White patches on the throat are not necessarily cancer. They may be due to benign (noncancerous) causes, such as infections or irritation.

White patches on the throat, tongue, or inside the mouth are called leukoplakia. They cannot be scraped off by rubbing or by toothbrush and appear as slightly raised gray to white patches.

Leukoplakia patches have a rough surface with an underlying raw area that may bleed on being scratched. Although these patches do not necessarily mean cancer, they may develop into cancer if left untreated.

You must contact your doctor for a definitive diagnosis of the white patches.

If the white patches are due to cancer, you may have other symptoms, such as:

What are the other causes of white spots on your throat?

White spots on the throat can be due to:

Although white patches are rarely due to cancer, one must not delay consulting a doctor. This helps in the early diagnosis and treatment of the condition. 

Strep throat or infection of the throat due to Streptococcus bacteria is one of the most common causes of white patches on the throat.

The other common cause of white throat patches is a fungal infection or oral thrush (oral candidiasis).

  • A type of yeast infection that results in white, cheese-like patches on the inside of the mouth and on the sides of the tongue.
  • Unlike leukoplakia, these white patches can be scraped off leaving an inflamed area underneath that tends to bleed.
  • It may present with other symptoms such as a cottony feeling in the mouth, disturbed taste, burning sensation, and difficulty in swallowing or eating. 

White or yellow patches may also occur due to tonsillitis or inflammation of the tonsils

  • Tonsils are oval structures present at the back of the throat.
  • Tonsillitis may cause other symptoms such as sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, bad breath, headache, and a scratchy or muffled voice.

How are white spots on your throat treated?

The treatment of white spots in the throat depends upon the cause.

Your doctor will do a detailed examination, take your medical history, and conduct tests for planning the treatment.

  • Antibiotics may be given in case of bacterial infections.
  • Oral thrush may be treated with antifungal mouthwashes or oral medications.
  • Viral infections such as herpes may be treated with appropriate medications including antiviral drugs, plenty of fluids, and rest.

Anti-inflammatory medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids may be prescribed to relieve pain and swelling. 

Cancer may be treated depending upon its stage and grade. The treatment options may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Tonsil removal surgery or tonsillectomy may be done to treat tonsillitis.


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Medically Reviewed on 11/9/2021
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