A sore throat is a common complaint, which can have a variety of causes, but some are more serious than others. Several types of cancer can occur in the throat, with varied symptoms. Importantly not all patients will experience all symptoms, and the specific symptoms experienced depend of the type, location, and stage of the cancer. As with most cancers, the sooner a diagnosis is made and treatment can be started the better the chances of recovered. It is therefore important to be able to recognize the symptoms of throat cancer.
Common conditions, such as a sore throat or cough, may in fact be symptoms of throat cancer. Chronic coughing or cancer of the tonsils may lead to bleeding, or coughing up blood. If you experience a sore throat, or a cough which continues longer than a fortnight or a few weeks, this might be a throat cancer symptom.
As types of cancer can occur in many areas of the throat, any swelling in the region, including the neck or lymph nodes, could be a symptom if there is no known cause. Less commonly, the jaw or eyes may also swell.
A change in voice, such as hoarseness or cracking of the voice, might be a sign of cancer of the larynx. Your voice may become less distinct and you may struggle to speak clearly. This change may be painless, but can be one of the earlier symptoms which might appear if cancer begins near the vocal chords.
Other symptoms might be difficulty breathing, or wheezing while breathing, as well as having trouble swallowing, known as dysphagia, or having pain while trying to swallow.
One often overlooked symptom is a persistent need to clear your throat. You may feel as though something is stuck in your throat and needs to be cleared, often via coughing. A patient may not notice this symptom themselves, especially if it is relatively minor, as clearing the throat is an automatic reaction.
Common to other types of cancer, unexplained weight loss may indicate the presence of cancer.
Less usual symptoms include ear, head, or neck pains depending on the location of the cancer. In some cases this pain can be quite severe, particularly in the ear.
Knowledge of symptoms of throat cancer is useful, as they can often be ignored or disregarded as minor illnesses. Many of the symptoms which may be experience can be wrongfully attributed to different or pre-existing conditions, which may lead to a later diagnosis.
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