Throat Cancer 
SYMPTOMS, SIGNS & TESTS


What do we mean by 'Throat Cancer'? It is a colloquial umbrella term that encompasses several specific types of cancer in the neck. These include Nasopharyngeal Cancer, Oropharyngeal CancerHypopharyngeal Cancer and Laryngeal Cancer. To read in more detail about any of these cancer types, click on the relevant links throughout this article. If none of these are the cancer type you're looking for, please explore the information about other types of Head and Neck Cancers.

 
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The signs and symptoms of any type of cancer in the throat, will depend on where the cancer is, its size and how far it has spread in the body. 

'Throat cancer' is a colloquial umbrella term that is not usually used by medical practitioners. To more accurately describe the symptoms and signs of a cancer in the throat, it's best to refer to the specific cancer type. For example, Hypopharyngeal, Nasopharyngeal, Oropharyngeal and Laryngeal Cancers. 

Below, you will find the signs, symptoms and tests of these main head and neck cancers that are sometimes referred to generally as 'Throat Cancer'. These summaries are brief introductions. You are encouraged to read more detailed information at the links in each section.

Most often the signs below will not be symptoms of cancer. However, if you have any of these symptoms for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor as early as possible. They may be able to help diagnose  and treat you. 
 
 

Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Nasopharyngeal Cancer is a type of throat cancer that forms in the nasopharynx, which is highest part of the throat —  in or behind the nose. 

Symptoms and Signs

The signs and symptoms of Nasopharyngeal Cancer depend on where the cancer is, its size and how far it has spread in the body. 

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • nasal obstruction or stuffiness

  • frequent nose bleeds

  • blocked ear, decreased hearing or ringing in the ear (especially on one side only)

  • a lump in the neck

  • frequent headaches

  • numbness in the face

  • blurred or double vision

> Read more: Symptoms and tests for Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Diagnostic Tests

The most common tests for Nasopharyngeal Cancer are:

  • Nasoendoscopy

  • ​Biopsy

  • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan

  • PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan

> Read more: Symptoms and tests for Nasopharyngeal Cancer
> Related link: 
Introduction to Nasopharyngeal Cancer
> Related link: Treatment for Nasopharyngeal Cancer


Oropharyngeal Cancer (including Tonsil Cancer)

Oropharyngeal Cancer includes is cancer that starts anywhere in the oropharynx. Your doctor may also call it by the part it has grown in, like tonsil or tongue base cancer.

Symptoms and Signs

Oropharyngeal Cancer can show up in different ways. Common signs and symptoms may include:

  • a sore throat that doesn’t go away

  • a sore (like an ulcer) in the throat

  • a lump in the throat

  • a lump in the neck (this is common and may be the only sign in many people)

  • trouble swallowing food, or moving the tongue

  • trouble opening the mouth

  • trouble breathing

  • noisy breathing

  • ear pain

  • ​coughing up blood

  • ​voice change 

  • unexplained weight loss. 

> Read more: Symptoms and tests for Oropharyngeal Cancer

Diagnostic Tests

The most common tests for Oropharyngeal Cancer are the same as those for Nasopharyngeal Cancer:

  • Nasoendoscopy

  • ​Biopsy

  • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan

  • PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan

> Read more: Symptoms and tests for Oropharyngeal Cancer
> Related link: Introduction to Oropharyngeal Cancer
> Related link: Treatment for Oropharyngeal Cancer

Hypopharyngeal Cancer

​Hypopharyngeal Cancer refers to cancer that forms in the hypopharynx (lower part of the throat). 

Symptoms and Signs

Some people with Hypopharyngeal Cancer might not experience any symptoms at all. However, common signs and symptoms include:

  • hoarseness of voice

  • pain on swallowing

  • difficulty swallowing

  • sore throat or pain in the ears (particularly on one side)

  • a lump in the neck (swollen lymph nodes or glands) 

  • noisy or difficult breathing

> Read more: Symptoms and tests for Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Diagnostic Tests

It's important that your doctor establishes the diagnosis of Hypopharyngeal Cancer, assesses the size of the cancer and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck or elsewhere in the body.

Not everyone will need to have every test for Hypopharyngeal Cancer. Your doctor will recommend tests that are right for you. The most common tests for Hypopharyngeal Cancer are:

  • Biopsy

  • Blood Tests

  • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan

  • Nasoendoscopy

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan

  • PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan

  • Ultrasound Scan

> Read more: Symptoms and tests for Hypopharyngeal Cancer
> Related link: 
Introduction to Hypopharyngeal Cancer
> Related link: Treatment for Hypopharyngeal Cancer


Laryngeal Cancer

The larynx (or voice box) is an organ in the front of the neck. There are many types of tumours (lumps) that occur in the larynx. Many of these are not cancers but are what doctors call ‘growths’ or ‘lesions’. 

Symptoms and Signs

The most common early symptom associated with Laryngeal Cancer is hoarseness or change in voice. 

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • pain on swallowing

  • difficulty swallowing

  • sore throat or pain in the ears

  • a lump in the neck (swollen lymph nodes or glands) 

  • noisy or difficult breathing

> Read more: ​Symptoms and tests for Laryngeal Cancer

Diagnostic Tests

The most common tests for Laryngeal Cancer are the same as those for Nasopharyngeal and Oropharyngeal Cancers:

  • Nasoendoscopy

  • ​Biopsy

  • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan

  • PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan

> Read more: ​Symptoms and tests for Laryngeal Cancer
> Related link: 
Introduction to Laryngeal Cancer
> Related link: Treatment for Laryngeal Cancer



We encourage you to read the more detailed information on each cancer type at the links in each section. But if you would like to continue reading brief summaries of the different cancers that might be referred to as throat cancers, please see the links below.

IN THIS SECTION

1. Introduction to Throat Cancer
2. Symptoms, signs and tests of Throat Cancer
3. Treatment for Throat Cancer