THROAT CANCER: Recognizing the Early Signs

Throat Cancer




Cancer is probably the most familiar word to us, among all the existing diseases. But how exactly are we on point with what cancer is?

Well, it is very simple. Cancer is a disease that is formed as a result of the rapid and continuous growth of cancer cells that are uncontrollable.  The cancer cells look very abnormal in shape as their nucleus is larger than normal.

But did you notice something?…………….. When all the cells in the body grow and divide, then what’s so unusual about these cells that they turn out to be cancerous?

As mentioned before, the difference is that cancer cells grow uncontrollably whereas, normal cells grow in a controlled manner.

This happens because the normal  cell division is controlled by a particular gene which makes sure that the cell is present in the right number, like rightly said “too much is not too good.”

But, in the case of cancer cells, the gene that regulates cell division gets mutated, not once but several times. This kind of mutation obviously leads to the extensive spread of cells as their cell division regulation gene is distorted and no more active. As per studies, the reason for such a mutation can be either —-

  • CHEMICAL, or

Physical causes of mutation include exposure of skin to physical agents like UV rays, X rays, gamma rays, and so on.

Chemical causes of mutation include exposure of the body system to chemicals like asbestos and so on.

Biological causes of mutation include exposure to the cancerous virus or even hereditary.

And since our entire body is made up of cells, it is completely justified that such a mutation can occur in the DNA of any cell present anywhere in the system.

Thus, depending on the region where the cell turns up into cancer cells and spreads throughout, we further distinguish them into various forms like:-

  • Throat cancer,
  • Oral cancer,
  • Blood cancer,
  • Bone cancer,
  • Skin cancer,
  • Breast cancer,
  • Ovarian cancer, and so on.

Out of these, today we shall know about Throat cancer.


When I say throat cancer, here I mean the cells in the throat that have converted to cancer cells on several mutations and tend to spread to the surrounding cells as well, which is why the name is given malignant throat cancer.

Now, biology is not that simple.

Here, your throat consists of two major regions, the pharyngeal region, and the laryngeal region.

Therefore, throat cancer is divided into two types depending on the sub-region where it originates and is thus called the—

  1. Pharyngeal cancer
  2. Laryngeal cancer

The pharynx and the larynx (Larynx is also called voice box and contains vocal cords) are originally divided into various regions thus having further subdivisions of cancer under each of them that go like this:-

1. Pharyngeal cancer is divided into —

A) Nasopharynx cancer in the upper region
B) Oropharynx cancer in the middle region
C) Hypopharynx cancer in the bottom region of the pharynx.

2. Laryngeal cancer is divided into —

A) Supraglottis cancer in the region about the vocal cords of the larynx
B) Glottis cancer in the region surrounding the vocal cords of the larynx
C) Subglottis cancer in the region below the vocal cords of the larynx

These are the smallest of regions where throat cancer can possibly occur. From this small nick, it outrages into a really huge giant disease and we should not let this happen.

For this, it is necessarily important for you to know about throat cancer.

So yes, the first exercise to know about throat cancer is to know what exactly does it feel or looks like?

In biological terms, we call it the symptoms of throat cancer.


1) Complete change in the way your voice sounds from normal

As we all know that the vocal cords present in the larynx are responsible for our voice to be a certain way.

So if there is a change in your voice, it’s quite predictable that the cancer cells (if there are any) are possibly present in the vocal cords.

Now the question is, if the cancer cells actually originated in the vocal cords or if they were spread to the vocal cords from some other region.

The answer to this is —

If the cells originated in the vocal cords, then the change in your voice will appear as the first symptom and will appear at the earliest stage, as the cancer cells are directly associated with them, calling for the first signs and symptoms of throat cancer. This type of cancer is predicted to be laryngeal cancer as it denotes that cancer primarily occurred in the vocal cords of the larynx.

If in case, cancer has spread to the vocal cords from a farther region, then they call for the late symptoms that appear in the later stages of throat cancer since the cells take time to spread, until when the vocal cords will stay normal.

2) A cracking voice

It is commonly called HOARSENESS.

This symptom makes the voice very scratchy, rough with a very low pitch like when someone screams, even though if the patient adds up a lot of energy to speak, the voice fails to break through.

There is another kind of voice which is known as “HOT POTATO VOICE” which can be seen in patients with oropharyngeal cancer.

A hot potato voice means that the voice of the patient suffering from oropharyngeal cancer might sound like the sound of someone who has put a hot potato in his mouth.

3) Difficulty in swallowing

This condition is also called DYSPHAGIA where the patient finds it really difficult to swallow the food as it chokes the throat causing pain. The pain worsens as the condition gets severe.

Swallowing occurs at the junction of the esophagus with the pharynx which is present right below the larynx.

Subsequently, cancer development in this region leads to such a symptom in the initial stages itself. Whereas, if it is the result of spreading cancer, the symptoms show up in the later stages.

4) Sudden and fast drop in your weight

An abrupt loss of weight without any effort put or exercise done in the process is definitely a matter of thought.

Well, it is known that all cells consume energy from the food we eat on burning calories in order to grow and divide, and so do cancer cells.

But the difference is that, since cancer cells grow in humongous numbers, they tend to consume an excessive amount of energy to grow and divide causing unexplainable burning of calories which ultimately leads to a drastic drop in your weight within a few days and without any effort.

5) An irritating throat

An irritating pain in the throat that stays throughout the day, be it whether you exercise your throat or not.

It is usually accompanied by an infection and cold.

6) When you feel like gaggling all day just to keep your throat calm and clear

7) Blood spit out while coughing 

As growing cancer on the inside enlarges, they tend to spread to the nearby blood vessels also. This causes a rupture in the blood vessel that leads to bleeding.

And if such a condition occurs in the throat, the bleeding blood mixes with the saliva which is thrown out on spitting. This symptom is mostly seen in the later stages.

8) Swollen lumps in the neck

The cancer cells in the throat after a few days grow to form a lump in the neck which is felt from the outside.

These lumps are actually lymph nodes that swell up and also indicate the presence and the spread of cancer. These swollen lymph nodes are often called Secondaries in the neck.

9) Wheezing

Difficulty in breathing as the infection spreads to the lungs.

10) Ear pain

It is also called REFERRED OTLAGIA.

Growth or cancer in the throat can cause referred ear pain.

Referred ear pain means that the patient will complain of ear pain rather than pain in the throat. Hence, it gets very important for the surgeon/doctor to examine the throat of the patient who has presented to the hospital with the complaint of ear pain and who simultaneously has a history of smoking or tobacco chewing.


These are some of the symptoms of throat cancer. Having said that, you should also know that just because you sight any of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you have throat cancer. These symptoms are very common in normal individuals as well who are not affected by cancer but might be affected by some other factors like flu, cold, etc.

What’s to remember is that none of these symptoms should persist for a longer time and remain unhealed. If that is the case, then you will have to see the doctor. This can give you a better medical outlook.



This blog including information, content, references, and opinions is for informational purposes only.

The Author does not provide any medical advice on this platform.

Viewing, accessing, or reading this blog does not establish any doctor-patient relationship.

The information provided in this blog does not replace the services and opinions of a qualified medical professional who examines you and then prescribes medicines.

And if you have any questions of medical nature, please refer to your doctor or the qualified medical personnel for evaluation and management at a clinic/hospital near you.

The content provided in this blog represents the Author’s own interpretation of research articles.

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