Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that can affect several different areas such as the larynx (the area of the throat used for speaking), the nasopharynx (the area of the throat behind the nose), and the oropharynx (the middle part of the throat). Because it can develop in different areas, symptoms of throat cancer can vary. Generally, they include pain in the throat or ears, trouble swallowing or breathing, or changes in voice. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned here, make an appointment with your doctor promptly. He or she may conduct a physical examination of the head, neck, and throat. Scans or biopsies may also be needed to make a diagnosis of throat cancer.
The larynx helps with breathing, swallowing, and talking. It is located between the base of the tongue and the trachea. Symptoms of cancer occurring in this area may include:
The nasopharynx is the upper part of the throat located behind the nose. It connects the nose to the ears through the nostrils and then openings on each side of the nasopharynx. Symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer may include:
This middle part of the throat includes the soft palate, the side and back walls of the throat, the tonsils, and the base of the tongue. Factors such as heavy alcohol use, smoking or chewing tobacco, and being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) can increase an individual’s chances of being affected with this type of cancer. Like the other two types of throat cancer, symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include trouble swallowing, a persistent cough, or sore throat, and changes in voice. They also include: