15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (2024)

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (1)

This article is medically reviewed by Dr. Dharmendra Kumar Rai, Associate Consultant - Head & Neck Cancer and Thyroid Surgery, HCG Cancer Centre, Kolkata

Table of Content

  • 15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You Should Not Ignore
  • Overview
  • 15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer
  • Persistent Sore Throat
  • Weight Loss
  • Pain when Swallowing
  • A Lump or Mass in the Neck
  • Ear Pain
  • Feeling Like There is Something Stuck in the Throat
  • Change in Voice (Hoarseness)
  • Coughing Up Blood
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Difficulty Opening the Mouth
  • Change in Taste
  • Unilateral Nasal Obstruction
  • Unusual Bleeding or Numbness
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in Body Function
  • When Should I Seek Medical Attention?
  • Why Choose HCG for Throat Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment?
  • Conclusion
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • References
  • Author Bio

Overview

Anisha was feeling more tired, and the sore throat that had persisted for a while now was not seemingly going away. Initially, she thought it could be due to a cold or allergy. However, as the weeks passed, the sore throat persisted. Further, people around her also informed her about the change in her voice.

She began to have trouble swallowing her food, and she was even losing weight without any extra effort. Anisha then decided to visit the ENT specialist. After a comprehensive examination, it was found that she had throat cancer.

Anisha’s story is no different from most of the patients with throat cancer. Most of them initially ignore symptoms, which causes the cancer to progress.

For early detection and timely treatment, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of throat cancer and consult the doctor if an individual experiences one or more symptoms.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer

The symptoms of throat cancer may vary from one patient to another. However, certain common throat cancer symptoms have been identified, and one needs to be aware of them.

One of the early signs of throat cancer, persistent sore throat is often ignored, as it is caused by various other less-serious throat conditions, such as bacterial and viral infections. Dr. Dharmendra Kumar Rai

Some of the silent symptoms of throat cancer are:

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (2)

Persistent Sore Throat

A persistent sore throat is the most common first-stage throat cancer symptom. A sore throat refers to discomfort or pain in the throat that does not go away. One must not ignore a persistent sore throat and should visit an ENT specialist to rule out serious conditions.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (3)

Weight Loss

Unexplained weight loss is one of the signs of throat cancer. Several reasons exist for weight loss in patients with throat carcinoma. Cancer cells alter metabolism, and this results in weight loss. Further, patients with throat cancer experience pain and obstruction in the esophagus, resulting in difficulty swallowing. However, various health conditions, other than throat carcinoma, can lead to weight loss. These include metabolic disorders, digestive disorders, infections, and mental health issues.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (4)

Pain when Swallowing

Pain during swallowing may also be one of the symptoms of throat cancer. The severity of the pain associated with swallowing may depend on the location and size of the tumor. A tumor in the pharynx or larynx obstructs or irritates the throat, resulting in pain or difficulty swallowing. That said, swallowing pain is caused by less serious conditions, such as esophageal disorders, tonsillitis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, as well, and therefore, a proper evaluation is necessary.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (5)

A Lump or Mass in the Neck

A neck lump or the feeling of a tumor on the throat may be a symptom of throat cancer. Cancer in the throat may spread to the nearby lymph nodes of the neck. Cancer cells proliferate in the lymph nodes, resulting in a lump in throat cancer. It is important to consult the doctor and get the neck lump evaluated to rule out serious medical conditions, especially when the neck lump persists and is accompanied by other common symptoms of throat cancer. Not all neck lumps are caused by throat carcinoma. The other more common reasons include inflammation and infection.

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Ear Pain

Ear pain may be a symptom of throat cancer, particularly when the cancer is present in structures near the ear, such as the larynx or pharynx. Patients with throat cancer may sometimes experience pain in their ears, a condition known as referred pain. The pain and discomfort in the ear in patients with throat carcinoma are due to the tumor-induced pressure on the nerves or structures associated with the ear. Ear pain may also be due to several other less serious conditions, such as dental problems, temporomandibular joint disorders, and ear infections.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (7)

Feeling Like There is Something Stuck in the Throat

Globus sensation—a feeling like something is stuck in the throat—may be a beginning sign of throat cancer. Patients with throat carcinoma have physical alterations and obstructions in the throat leading to this sensation. Further, the presence of a tumor also irritates the surrounding tissues of the throat, resulting in a globus sensation. It is necessary to consult an ENT specialist if globus sensation and other throat carcinoma symptoms are persistently experienced. The other less serious causes of globus sensation are muscle tension, GERD, throat infections, and anxiety.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (8)

Change in Voice (Hoarseness)

The voice originates in the larynx, or voice box, in the throat. When cancer affects the larynx or other structures associated with producing sound, patients may experience altered voice or hoarseness. The degree of alteration in the voice due to throat cancer depends on the location and size of the tumor. Consult an ENT specialist if you experience changes in voice along with a neck lump and a persistent sore throat. Other causes of voice changes include laryngitis, vocal cord nodules, and vocal cord paralysis.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (9)

Coughing Up Blood

Coughing up blood is known as hemoptysis. It may be a symptom of advanced throat cancer. The bleeding may occur from the tumor or the nearby tissues. Bleeding may also occur when throat carcinoma damages the surrounding blood vessels of the throat or spreads to the blood vessels. This is one of the crucial symptoms of throat cancer that should not be ignored, as early diagnosis and treatment improve overall throat cancer outcomes. Other causes of coughing up blood are pneumonia, bronchitis, or pulmonary embolism. Simple irritation to the airways or throat may also result in bleeding.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (10)

Difficulty Breathing

Difficulty breathing is usually not a sign of early-stage throat cancer. However, patients with advanced throat carcinoma may experience breathing difficulty due to tumor growth large enough to obstruct the airway or if the tumor spreads to the structures involved in breathing, such as the windpipe. The other symptoms related to airway obstruction due to tumor growth include wheezing, coughing, and noisy breathing. Difficulty breathing is not an exclusive symptom of throat cancer and may occur due to various other diseases, such as asthma, COPD, and infections.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (11)

Difficulty Opening the Mouth

Patients with throat cancer may also have trouble opening their mouths, especially in the advanced stages of the disease. It is usually a symptom of throat cancer when the cancer affects the tissues, nerves, or muscles involved in the jaw movement. This condition, medically known as trismus, affects the patient’s ability to speak, eat, and maintain oral hygiene.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (12)

Change in Taste

Change in taste may be a symptom of throat cancer, especially in patients with cancer of the advanced stage. Altered taste perception occurs when cancer affects the structures involved in taste perception or when cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy, alter the characteristics of the taste buds. The change in taste affects the dietary choices, the patient's appetite, and their overall quality of life.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (13)

Unilateral Nasal Obstruction

Patients with advanced throat cancer may experience unilateral nasal obstruction when cancer affects the upper part of the throat, which is situated just behind the nose. Such cancers cause blockage or obstruction on one side of the nose, resulting in various symptoms, such as nasal congestion or stuffiness, difficulty breathing through one nostril, and frequent nosebleeds from the affected nostril.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (14)

Unusual Bleeding or Numbness

Numbness may be a symptom of throat cancer when the tumor compresses the surrounding nerves. The patients may also experience a tingling sensation in the affected area. The patients may experience numbness and tingling sensations because of the nerve damage caused by throat cancer treatment. The other reasons for numbness and tingling sensations include inflammation, neurological disorders, and nerve compression.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (15)

Fatigue

Fatigue is a non-specific symptom of throat cancer and is one of the early signs of various cancers, including throat cancer. Fatigue may also occur in patients with advanced throat cancer. Patients with throat cancer may experience fatigue due to the immune response against cancer cells and the elevated metabolic demands of the malignant cells. Patients undergoing throat cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery, may also experience fatigue.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (16)

Changes in Body Function

Throat cancer may alter overall body functioning and affect various systems, such as the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. It may lead to changes in taste, breathing difficulty, a persistent cough, throat discomfort, and difficulty swallowing.

Throat cancer is often diagnosed in the advanced stages. The possible reasons for the delayed diagnosis of throat cancer could be a lack of awareness, presentation of non-specific symptoms, limited access to healthcare facilities. One of the first steps towards early detection of throat cancer include being mindful of different throat cancer symptoms and seeing a specialist when persistent throat-related symptoms are observed.
Dr. Dharmendra Kumar Rai

When should I Seek Medical Attention?

It is important to seek medical attention when patients experience symptoms that suggest the presence of throat cancer. These symptoms include persistent sore throat, persistent wear pain, unexplained weight loss, altered voice, persistent cough, and fatigue. In most cases, these symptoms are caused by less serious conditions. However, it is important not to ignore these symptoms and to consult an ENT specialist to rule out serious conditions.

Why Choose HCG for Throat Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment?

Early and accurate diagnosis and appropriate management improve the overall outcomes in patients with this condition. HCG provides comprehensive diagnosis and management of early-stage to advanced-stage throat cancer.

The center is equipped with advanced laboratory and imaging facilities, such as CT scans, MRI, and PET scans, to diagnose the presence and stage of throat cancer. All the treatment options, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and immunotherapy, are available at the center.

The throat cancer care team comprises ENT specialists, oncologists, surgeons, and paramedical staff to support patients at all levels of throat cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Conclusion

Throat cancer affects the throat and causes issues that involve the pharynx and larynx. The initial signs of throat cancer are throat discomfort, persistent sore throat, unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, and fatigue. The symptoms of advanced throat cancer are altered taste, numbness, and unilateral nasal obstruction.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can you have throat cancer without knowing?

The duration of throat cancer without knowing depends upon various factors, such as the type of cancer, its location, growth rate, and the overall health of the patients.

What does throat cancer pain feel like?

Throat cancer pain depends on various factors, such as the location and stage of the cancer. Pain severity increases as the cancer progresses to an advanced stage. Patients with throat carcinoma often experience throat pain and discomfort, pain during swallowing, and ear pain.

How fast does throat cancer grow?

The rate of throat cancer depends upon various factors, such as the location of the cancer and the type of cancer. Different types of throat cancer have different growth rates. For instance, squamous cell carcinoma has a slower growth rate, while lymphoma or adenocarcinoma have different growth patterns.

Where does throat cancer start?

Throat cancer may initiate in the throat tissues, such as the pharynx or the larynx. As the cancer progresses, it affects the other surrounding structures.

At what age is throat cancer common?

Throat cancer may occur at any age. However, the risk of developing throat carcinoma increases with age. The majority of cases of throat cancer occur in patients between the ages of 40 and 50.

Is throat cancer curable?

The complete cure of throat cancer depends upon several factors, such as the type and stage of the cancer, the overall health of the patients, and the response to treatment. However, the treatment results are excellent if this condition is caught and treated in the early stages.

How do you achieve throat cancer prevention?

While 100% throat cancer prevention is not possible, you can reduce your throat cancer risk with appropriate preventive strategies, which include refraining from tobacco and alcohol consumption, consuming a balanced diet, and preventing chronic HPV infection.

References

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (17)

Author Bio

Dr. Dharmendra Kumar Rai,

Associate Consultant

Head & Neck Cancer and Thyroid Surgery

HCG Cancer Centre, Kolkata

Dr. Dharmendra Kumar Rai is an associate consultant for head and neck cancer surgery and thyroid surgery at HCG Cancer Centre, Kolkata. He has over 4 years of experience managing oral cavity cancers. He completed his specialized training in endoscopic assisted nasal cavity surgery and minimally invasive surgeries. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship training in Head & Neck cancer surgery at Tata Medical Centre, Kolkata.

During his free time, Dr. Hemang Bakshi likes to travel across the world.

To book an appointment with Dr. Dharmendra Kumar Rai, please click here.

15 Silent Symptoms of Throat Cancer that You should not Ignore (2024)

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