Throat Cancer: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Throat cancers may not cause any symptoms if they are very small and have not spread at the time of diagnosis. Sometimes, an area of irritation or discoloration on the lining issues of the throat is the only sign of an abnormality. Depending upon the extent of spread of the cancer, other symptoms can include swelling of nearby tissues, enlarged lymph nodes, trouble breathing, difficulty speaking, neck or throat pain, ear pain, painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and headache. Pain or ringing in the ears may occur in some cases. Bleeding can occur from some throat cancers. In advanced stages of throat cancer, symptoms like fatigue and unexplained weight loss may be present.

Causes of throat cancer

The exact cause of throat cancer is not clear. However, certain risk factors lead to an increased risk of throat cancer, such as cigarette smoking, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, and exposure to toxic substances like asbestos or large quantities of alcohol. About 50%-90% of squamous cell carcinomas (the most common type of throat cancers), have been associated with HPV infections that can be acquired with oral sex. Other risk factors include male gender, African-American heritage, and poor dental hygiene.

Other throat cancer symptoms and signs


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United States. National Cancer Institute. "Throat (Laryngeal and Pharyngeal) Cancer." <>.