Throat cancer is a condition that is characterized by the development of malignant tumors in the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx) or tonsils. In most cases, throat cancer originates in the flat cells that line the inside of the throat, a muscular tube that extends from the nose to the bottom of the neck.
The symptoms of throat cancer can vary based on its specific location. Sometimes, it can cause a palpable lump to form in the neck, although this symptom is not always present. It’s also important to note that neck lumps are often associated with upper respiratory infections, such as strep throat, and do not always indicate the presence of cancer. These lumps are actually lymph nodes that have become temporarily enlarged as they fight off infection. After the infection clears, the lymph nodes return to their normal size and the lumps go away. On the other hand, a lump that occurs without an infection or persists long after an infection resolves may be a sign of throat cancer.
In addition to a lump, swelling or thickness in the neck, some other warning signs and symptoms of throat cancer include:
- Swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)
- A feeling that food has become lodged in the throat
- Hoarseness and other vocal changes
- Persistent sore throat
- A mouth sore that bleeds easily or does not heal within a few days
- A red or white patch on the gums, tongue or cheek lining
- Mouth or tongue numbness
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Ear pain
In the renowned Head and Neck Cancer Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, our multispecialty team collaboratively evaluates each patient’s symptoms and diagnostic test results. After diagnosing throat cancer, we develop a highly individualized treatment plan and closely monitor the patient’s progress. Our patients have access to the latest treatment options, including clinical trials that provide early access to promising new therapies that are not yet available in other settings.
If you have concerns about a lump you feel in your throat, you can consult with a head and neck cancer specialist at Moffitt Cancer Center with or without a referral. For more information, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.