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Also called: Laryngeal cancer, Hypopharyngeal cancer, Laryngopharyngeal cancer, Nasopharyngeal cancer, Oropharyngeal cancer, Pharyngeal cancer.

Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer. The names of the throat cancer depend on the part of the throat that is affected by it. These parts are called the oropharynx, the hypopharynx, and the nasopharynx. Sometimes the larynx, or voice box, is also included.

The main risk factors for throat cancer are smoking or using smokeless tobacco and use of alcohol.

The main symptoms of throat cancer include

  • Trouble breathing or speaking
  • Frequent headaches
  • Pain or ringing in the ears
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Ear pain

Therapy includes surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.

Cancer - throat or larynx

Cancer of the throat refers to cancer of the vocal cords, the larynx, or other areas of the throat.


People who smoke or use tobacco are under greater risk of developing throat cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption also increases the risk.

Most cancers of the throat develop in adults older than 50. Men are 10 times more likely than women to develop throat cancers.


  • Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
  • Coughing up blood
  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness of the voice that doesn’t improve in 1-2 weeks
  • Neck pains
  • Sore throat that does not get better in 1 - 2 weeks, even with antibiotics
  • Swelling or lumps in the neck
  • Unintentional weight loss

Ways of Examining and Testing

The doctor will perform a physical examination. This may show a lump on the outside of the neck.

The doctor may look in your throat or nose using a flexible tube with a small camera at the end.

Other may include:

  • Biopsy of suspected tumor
  • MRI of the head or neck
  • CT scan of chest
  • CT scan of head and neck
  • Chest x-ray


The goal of treatment is to completely remove the cancer and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.

When the tumor is small, either surgery or radiation therapy alone can be used to remove the tumor.

When the tumor is larger or has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, a combination of radiation and chemotherapy is often used to preserve the voice box.

Some patients need surgery to remove the tumor, including all or part of the vocal cords (laryngectomy). Speech therapy can help you learn other ways to talk, if you have had a lryngectomy.

Many patients also resort to swallowing therapy after treatment to help them adjust to the changes in the structure of the throat.

Support Groups

You can relieve the stress of illness by joining a support group of people who share common experiences and problems.


Throat cancers can be cured in 90% of patients if detected early. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes in the neck, 50 - 60% of patients can be cured. If the cancer has spread (metastasized) to parts of the body outside the head and neck, the cancer is not curable and treatment is aimed at extending lifespan and improving quality of life.

After treatment, patients generally need help with speech and swallowing. A small percentage of patients (5%) will not be able to swallow and will need to be fed through a special feeding tube.

Possible Complications

  • Airway obstruction
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Disfigurement of the neck or face
  • Hardening of the skin of the neck
  • Loss of voice and speaking ability
  • Spread of the cancer to other body areas (metastasis)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of throat cancer, especially hoarseness or a change in voice with no obvious cause that lasts longer than 3 weeks
  • You find a lump in your neck that does not go away in 3 weeks


Avoid smoking and other tobacco exposure. Limit or avoid alcohol use.

Alternative Names

Vocal cord cancer; Throat cancer; Laryngeal cancer; Cancer of the glottis