Nobody wants to receive a diagnosis of cancer. Cancer is a scary word, but luckily, medical science has come a long way in the last decade, and a cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. Most people who receive the proper treatment on time, do survive cancer and are able to go on to live normal lives.
The key to catching cancer quickly is to be aware of the symptom. When you are familiar with the symptoms, you will know when you experience them and when to seek medical attention.
Throat cancer is a very common type of cancer, and it has specific symptoms. Some symptoms start out mild and become more severe as cancer progresses. If you suspect you may have throat cancer and are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor to get a proper diagnosis immediately so you can begin the right treatment.
1. Persistent Cough
A cough can be a sign of a cold, flu, or something more severe like throat cancer. When you first start coughing, you probably assume it’s something mild and not something as serious as throat cancer. This causes many people to put off seeing a doctor for their cough and having their throat cancer diagnosed at a later stage. If you have a cough and no other symptoms of the flu or a cold, it may be caused by something more serious.
If the cough is persistent and lasts for more than a week, you should talk to a doctor to rule out something as serious as throat cancer. Throat cancer doesn’t only show up on the outside of the throat. It can start from the inside. As cancer grows and becomes more severe, it can cause symptoms to become worse, including a cough. Many people continue to struggle with a cough even after they have successfully overcome throat cancer.
2. Sore Throat
People with throat cancer almost always experience a sore throat at some point. A sore throat is common and can have many causes. Strep throat, infections, colds, and the flu are all possible causes of a sore throat. Throat cancer is a less likely but more severe cause.
A sore throat caused by throat cancer stars like any other sore throat but will become worse over time and be accompanied by other symptoms of cancer. Since sore throats are so common, most people don’t seek medical attention until the pain becomes severe, or they suspect there may be a serious cause.
Doctors may need to take a biopsy or scrap of the throat to test the tissue to see if there are cancer cells present. The throat may also be sore during cancer treatment. Some people even continue to experience a sore throat after cancer has been successfully treated.
3. Difficulty Swallowing
A lot of people have a hard time swallowing and don’t think anything of it. This symptom is one that is easily overlooked as a symptom of throat cancer because there are so many other possible causes of it. It’s very common in older people, and many elderly people have a later throat cancer diagnosis because they don’t seek medical attention when they first notice this symptom.
Throat cancer can cause the glans in the neck to swell, which can close off the throat and make it hard to swallow. It can also dry out the throat so that food and liquids have no lubrication, making it harder to swallow them.
Some people even report trouble swallowing after they have been treated and recovered from throat cancer. Both surgery and radiation can cause problems in the throat that make it hard to swallow. The condition may improve with time or may be permanent.
4. Lump In The Throat (My 'lump' is at the back of my throat)
This symptom is one of the most obvious signs of throat cancer, but it’s not always the first one that is noticed. The lump may come on suddenly or grow larger over time. Some people feel slight discomfort or lump around the throat and neck and just assume it is a swollen gland caused by a mild infection or something more common like a pimple or cyst.
It is only when the lump grows larger that they seek medical attention and a proper diagnosis. The lump may be painful or may not cause any pain at all. It may grow larger with time or stay the same size. Some people are able to push on the lump and move it around.
Doctors may need to do a biopsy of the lump to determine what exactly is causing it. While throat cancer is one possible cause, there are many other disorders that can cause lumps, as well.
5. Hoarseness Or Voice Changes
Anytime there is a problem or infection that affects the throat, you can expect voice changes. Some people who have throat cancer experience hoarseness long before they notice any other symptoms. They may be confused about the cause and assume they are getting sick. Many people feel fine in the early stages of throat cancer, and the hoarseness or changes in the voice are the only things they notice. As cancer becomes more severe there may be more changes.
In some cases, the person may lose their voice entirely. Cancer treatments can make changes or hoarseness worse. Even when a person has recovered from cancer, they may still not regain their normal voice. Their voices may be permanently changed, or they may remain permanently hoarse. Some people are able to sip warm liquids to help with the hoarseness. The hoarseness and changes are not always permanent, and the symptom may improve with time.
6. Ear And Jaw Pain
Many people don’t realize they have throat cancer because the symptoms they first experience start out elsewhere in the body. They may have ear or jaw pain and not even realize it’s anything serious. Since there are numerous other things that can cause this type of pain, including ear infection, sinus infection, and tooth infections. Most people don’t suspect throat cancer when they first experience pain in the jaw or ear.
It’s only when the pain becomes severe or is accompanies by other symptoms. The pain may be caused by swelling or the growth of a tumor or from inflammation. It can also be directly from cancer growing near the areas of the ears and jaws. One cancer treatment begins, and any tumors start shrinking, the pain in the ear and jaw should subside. Some people do experience pain in these areas during and after treatment. Pain medication may help.
7. White Patches In The Mouth
Throat cancer obviously affects the throat, but it can also affect other nearby areas as well, such as the mouth. Many people who have throat cancer don’t notice symptoms in their throat in the early stages. Instead, they may notice white patches or sores in their mouths. The sores can occur on the lips, inside the jaws, or even on the gums. They can look and feel like canker sores, but they don’t get better over time.
They may spread or grow and can become so sore that they make it hard to eat or drink. These sores and patches can eventually show up in the throat too. They can cause bad breath and dry mouth. Some people also experience a bad taste in their mouths. Since canker sores are common and feel similar to the sores caused by throat cancer, many people don’t see sores as a serious problem and don’t seek medical treatment until other symptoms become present.
8. Difficulty Breathing
It’s not uncommon for people who are suffering from throat cancer to have trouble breathing problems. If the throat swells, it may block the air passages and prevent a person from breathing properly. If cancer causes a tumor, it can grow on the inside of the throat and completely block off the throat, making breathing almost impossible. If not treated quickly, it could lead to death as a result of complications.
People who have sore throats or problems swallowing as a result of cancer usually have trouble breathing too. Breathing can become more difficult with treatment, as it can take a toll on the body, much like cancer. The body becomes weak and struggles to take deeper breaths that are needed to get enough air despite the tumor or cancer that is present. Most people recover and do not have breathing problems after cancer has been successfully treated.
Any time the body is under stress or fighting a foreign body, it can react by causing pain in other parts of the body. Headaches are common for many people who are fighting any type of cancer, but they are more common in people who have cancer in their throat or other areas around the face and head.
The nerves in the face and head are very sensitive, and when something affects them, they can send pain signals to the brain. Swelling caused by cancer in the throat can trigger these nerves and cause headaches. The headaches may come and go, or they may be constant.
Some people are able to find relief with over the counter medication. Treatment for cancer may help ease the pain of headaches or make them worse. Once a person recovers from throat cancer, they are not likely to experience pain related to cancer.
10. Unexplained Weight Loss
Unexplained weight loss is a sign that something is wrong in the body. If you are losing weight and haven’t changed your diet or increased your physical activity, there could be something wrong. Cancer is known to cause weight loss, no matter where it occurs.
This is often one of the first symptoms that patients notice. It may happen over time, or you may suddenly notice it one day. Since it usually takes a while to notice, cancer may be in the later stages by the time a person is diagnosed.
Cancer usually presents other symptoms with weight loss, which leads people to seek medical attention. Some people are happy with the weight loss and don’t see it as a problem at first. It is only when the other symptoms present themselves, or the weight loss seems to become extreme, that a person seeks a diagnosis from a doctor.
11. Swelling In the Eyes, Throat, and Neck
Throat cancer can cause a lot of problems in and around the throat, but the problems aren’t limited to only that area. The swelling can affect the entire face and neck. Many people experience swelling in and around their eyes, around the sinuses, in their neck and shoulders, and of course, the throat itself. The swelling can be the result of cancer grows larger, or it may be caused by inflammation.
When the body realizes there is something foreign in the body, it reacts with inflammation. As long as the cancer is in the body, there may be swelling. The swelling may come and go, or it may be chronic. Some people also experience swelling as a result of cancer treatment. Once cancer has been successfully treated, the swelling should subside. Using a warm compress and drinking plenty of liquids may help treat the inflammation and cause the swelling to go down temporarily.
Many people who have throat cancer or any type of cancer may experience nausea. This is because cancer is taking a toll on the body. Your body knows that something is wrong even before you are diagnosed with cancer.
Any time the body is under stress, it reacts by trying to get rid of whatever is in the body. Nausea may or may not lead to vomiting, and it may come in go or become chronic. Nausea can also affect a person’s appetite, and cause them not to want to eat or drink. This can lead to hunger pains and dehydration, which can the nausea to be worse.
Nausea is not a symptom of throat cancer on its own, but when accompanied by other symptoms, it can help doctors to decide to test for cancer in the throat or other parts of the body. The nausea may continue during cancer treatment, and even after the patient recovers.
13. Extreme Fatigue
Cancer can take a big toll on the body and cause extreme fatigue. Many people start to feel tired long before they experience any other symptoms or even suspect they have cancer. Some people may assume they are getting sick or fighting off an infection. The fatigue caused by throat cancer isn’t likely to go away but may get worse as the cancer spread or becomes more severe.
Many people also experience extreme fatigue as a result of cancer treatment. The treatment exhausts the body and makes it hard for the patient to have any energy at all. Sleeping may help at times, but most people still feel tired even after they sleep well. Once cancer has been successfully treated, the fatigue should go away.
A healthy diet may help treat the fatigue associated with cancer. Staying hydrated and resting can also make help. Doctors may also suggest a vitamin regimen to help with fatigue associated with cancer or treatment.
14. Loss of Taste
People who are suffering from throat cancer often have a loss of taste. They may not be able to taste certain foods or any food at all. They may not be able to even taste foods that have strong flavors or spices. This is not as common as other symptoms of throat cancer and will not affect everyone who is diagnosed with it.
Many people don’t realize that their loss of taste is caused by something serious. They may relate it to a burnt tongue or even a sinus infection. It’s only when it is prolonged or when there are other symptoms present, that people see a doctor for the loss of taste.
They may regain their taste during treatment, or once treatment is successful. Some people do have a permanent loss of taste as a result of throat cancer. Many people find that their taste is lessened but still present.