Your throat is a tube made of muscle that goes from behind your nose to your neck. Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer. There are several different types of throat cancer, and each is named for the part of the throat where the cancer is. Throat cancer can develop in your oropharynx, hypopharynx, nasopharynx, or your larynx (voice box). In each type, cancer is most likely to begin in the cells that line the inside of your throat.

Symptoms

Symptoms of throat cancer include:

  • A lump in your neck
  • A cough
  • A sore throat that doesn’t go away
  • Issues with swallowing
  • Hoarseness, or other voice changes
  • Ear pain
  • Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Unexplained weight loss

Treatment

Treatment for throat cancer depends on your stage of cancer and where in your throat your cancer started:

  • Hypopharynx cancer: Surgery is the most common treatment. You may also have radiation or chemotherapy after surgery to decrease the chance of your cancer coming back.
  • Larynx cancer: Surgery is the most common treatment. You may also have radiation or chemotherapy after surgery to decrease the chance of your cancer coming back.
  • Oropharynx cancer: Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy may all be used as your first treatment.

Your doctor may also recommend targeted therapy or immunotherapy. Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific cancer cells and causes less damage to non-cancerous cells than radiation or chemotherapy. Immunotherapy causes your body’s immune system to attack your cancer cells, and is usually only used for throat cancer that doesn’t respond to other treatment.

Risk Factors

Factors that can increase your risk of throat cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Not eating a lot of fruits and vegetables
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Being from or having ancestors from Asia
  • Chewing betel or gutka
  • Drinking yerba mate