Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Cancer health centre

Throat cancer

What is throat cancer?

Throat cancer is a broad term for cancers affecting the throat. However, doctors are more likely to use specific terms based on the location of the cancer in and around the throat.

Throat cancer is linked to oral cancer or mouth cancer affecting the mouth, laryngeal cancer affecting the voice box, and nose and sinus cancer. These all come under a general heading of head and neck cancer.

Not all tumours or lumps found in the throat are cancer - some are harmless (benign).

Symptoms of throat cancer

Throat cancer symptoms will usually depend on the location of the cancer and how far it has developed. They include:

Seek medical advice for any of these symptoms, especially if there is no obvious cause. The key to successful cancer treatment is often early diagnosis and treatment before it spreads.

Types of throat cancer

Types of throat cancer include:

  • Cancer of the oropharynx – the throat area at the back of the mouth
  • Cancer of the hypopharynx – the area of the throat joining the back of the mouth to the windpipe and gullet
  • Cancer of the nasopharynx (nasopharyngeal cancer) – where the back of the nose joins the back of the mouth
  • Salivary gland cancer - affecting the saliva-producing glands called the parotid glands between the ears and the cheeks, the sublingual glands under the tongue, and the submandibular glands under the jawbone on each side.

What causes throat cancer?

Doctors don't always know why a person gets DNA changes that turn into cancer of the throat - but they do know there are some things that make these changes more likely. These include:

Throat cancer diagnosis

Throat cancer will be diagnosed based on the symptoms, a physical examination of the throat and looking inside with a special instrument, the person's medical history - and additional tests and referrals to specialists may be arranged.

A doctor will also want to rule out other possible causes of symptoms, such as infections.

A person may seek medical advice about certain symptoms that turn out to be throat cancer - or signs of throat cancer may be detected during a routine check-up, such as seeing the dentist.

Tests may include:

WebMD Medical Reference

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
boost your metabolism
Foods to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
sick child
Dos and don'ts for childhood eczema
Treating your child's cold or fever
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning and organising tips
adult man contemplating
When illness makes it hard to eat
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
cold sore
What you need to know