These symptoms indicate throat cancer


Throat cancer can cause a variety of symptoms depending on its exact location in the throat.
Unfortunately, many of the symptoms are not noticed until late, when the tumor has advanced and grown large. Even the first symptoms that are recognized are often not expressed in the form of obstructions to breathing or eating, as one would suspect in the throat. Rather, the cancer often only becomes noticeable after the first settlements in the lymph nodes, based on palpable swellings in the throat and throat area.

Find out more about the following: Throat cancer

The following symptoms can indicate throat cancer

Even if throat cancer is noticeable very late, it can become noticeable in the further course based on many symptoms.

  • Breathing problems
  • Throat irritation
  • difficulties swallowing
  • Foreign body sensation in the throat
  • decreased or increased salivation
  • Weight loss
  • Articulation disorders, discomfort when speaking
  • Sore throat
  • constant hoarseness
  • Sinus infections
  • Otitis media

The focus is on complaints associated with passage disorders in the throat, i.e. breathing and swallowing problems. Food intake can be disturbed by pain when chewing and swallowing, masticatory muscle spasms, foreign body feelings in the throat, excessive or absent salivation and a reduced feeling of hunger.

As a result, bad breath, permanent pain and rapid weight loss can occur. Along with chewing problems, the muscles of the tongue can also be affected, which can lead to speech problems. In the context of breathing, pain and shortness of breath, but also permanent runny nose, inflammation of the mucous membranes, nosebleeds, colds, sinus infections, otitis media, headaches, sore throats and hoarseness can occur.

If the tumor is bleeding, depending on the location, blood may collect in the stomach, a bloody cough or nosebleeds. The complaints of the nose and ears are due to the restricted nasal breathing and congestion when the nasopharynx is affected.

General information about throat cancer can be found at: Throat cancer - you should know that

Difficulty swallowing as a symptom

Difficulty swallowing is a common symptom of advanced throat cancer.
Swallowing difficulties mean on the one hand pain during the swallowing process, but on the other hand also passage disorders and swallowing in the throat. The latter are a common symptom of throat cancer.

The lower part of the pharynx up to the division into the trachea and esophagus has a diameter of several centimeters. The upper esophagus, which can also be affected by the cancer, is also up to 4 centimeters in diameter. A tumor of the lining of the throat can bulge into the throat and block the tube. As a result, those affected often have the feeling that the food “hangs across” their throat, which feels like a lump in the throat. Accidental ingestion into the windpipe also becomes more frequent.

A failure of the throat muscles can also be behind the swallowing disorder. In the case of throat cancer, this can be infiltrated and lose its function. Safe swallowing is only made possible by precisely programmed contractions of these neck muscles. In addition, in advanced throat cancer, the movement of swallowing in the throat is very painful, which is known as "odynophagia".

Find out more at: Difficulty swallowing - causes, complications & therapy

Sore throat in throat cancer

Throat cancer can manifest itself relatively early with a sore throat. The cancer is often located superficially on the lining of the throat, where it comes into contact with the air, with saliva and with all food ingested through the mouth.

If superficial ulceration and bleeding of the cancer occur, pain can occur with every swallow. In the case of a large tumor, pressure on the surrounding organs and structures in the throat can also occur during the swallowing process. This can also cause a sore throat.

Learn more at:

  • Sore throat when swallowing
  • Causes of Sore Throat

Reduced salivation in throat cancer

Throat cancer can affect the salivary glands themselves or the supply of the salivary glands. In most cases there is a cessation of saliva flow, as a result of which those affected report extremely dry mouth. Due to its proximity, the tumor can damage and destroy the salivary glands as well as the responsible nerves.

Long-term damage to the flow of saliva can also occur in the therapy of throat cancer. Irradiation of the neck after the throat cancer has been removed can cause lasting damage to the salivary glands. Here, too, the permanent dry mouth is a possible consequence.

You might also be interested in: Dry mouth

Cancer of the palate is also one of the carcinomas of the mouth and smoking area. In the following article, you will find out how to recognize palatal cancer and how it is treated if you are present: Palate Cancer - Things to Watch Out For

Bloody sputum as a sign of throat cancer

A malignant tumor has the property of growing invasively. It changes its structure permanently and is also able to form and destroy blood vessels. It is not uncommon for this to lead to tumor bleeding, whereby smaller or larger blood vessels are destroyed. This bleeding also occurs with throat cancer.

If the tumor is deep, it can lead to bleeding in the throat, which can be vomited or coughed up. In the case of higher-lying tumors, the blood can also collect directly in the mouth or nose and repeatedly cause externally visible bleeding.

Difficulty breathing as a symptom of throat cancer

The throat contains not only the food, but also the airways. A large tumor in the lower part of the throat before it divides into the trachea and esophagus can prevent both food intake and breathing. Particularly large blockages in the lower throat can lead to severe shortness of breath.

It is not uncommon for the tumor to spread to the trachea and larynx if left untreated. Hoarseness can be the first symptom of tracheal involvement. If the lymph nodes, neck structures and esophagus are further affected, external pressure on the windpipe can be excessive, which can also result in shortness of breath.

Also read: Shortness of breath

Foreign body sensation in throat cancer

The feeling of a foreign body in the throat arises because the tumor behaves like a foreign body. Although it consists of the body's own cells, it is uncontrollable by the body and spreads unnaturally on the mucous membranes. A foreign body sensation occurs quickly, especially during the swallowing process.
Swallowing is an optimized process that has been carried out a million times and is ensured by an exact sequence of movements of the pharyngeal muscles.

Blockages or infiltrations of the muscles or the mucous membrane of the throat not only lead to a feeling of foreign bodies in the throat, but also often to swallowing or getting stuck in the esophagus.

Hoarseness as a symptom

Hoarseness is caused by involvement of the vocal folds in the larynx. There are two vocal folds that move symmetrically to each other and tense up when speaking and breathing, and vibrate to produce sounds. A certain pitch can be formed through the exact position of both vocal folds.

If the function of a vocal fold is restricted by a cold or by a throat cancer, hoarseness occurs. While the hoarseness of a cold usually subsides after 14 days, the hoarseness of throat cancer is permanent.

If both vocal folds are affected, it can sometimes cause shortness of breath come because they can no longer open to let air through the larynx.

Find out more at: Hoarseness

Which B symptoms occur in revenge cancer?

A B-symptomatology describes the constellation of three important symptoms that can occur in the context of cancer. With the accompanying symptoms are

  • Fever,
  • Night sweats and
  • unwanted weight loss

meant. These symptoms cannot primarily be explained by the local changes in the throat, but are a consequence of the overall health condition. The presence of B symptoms is in many cases the reason for discovering the cancer. In particular, rapid, unwanted weight loss should be urgently clarified, as it can represent cancer.
Overall, the prognosis for the disease is poorer if the symptoms are B.

Read on under: What is meant by B symptoms?

Lymph node swelling in the neck in throat cancer

Lymph node swelling is the most common symptom of throat cancer. In more than every second case, the lymph nodes are infected when a throat cancer is discovered. The lymph nodes are usually swollen but not painful, which distinguishes them from an infection.

When treating cancer, they must also be removed, as otherwise the cancer cells can spread throughout the body via the lymph. To this end, all lymph node stations in the entire neck area are provisionally removed surgically to increase the chance of healing.

Learn more about this at: Swollen lymph nodes on the neck - what's behind it?

Bad breath as a sign of throat cancer

Bad breath is often caused by the accumulation of pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses in the oral mucosa. In principle, this can affect anyone, but cancer patients are predestined for it. The cancer can reduce the immune system.

The cancer itself or the subsequent therapy can also damage the salivary glands. The resulting dry mouth also promotes the implantation of pathogens in the mucous membrane. These factors enable the germs to colonize the oral mucosa and thus a bad breath.

Good oral hygiene and mouthwashes can largely prevent bad breath, even if you have cancer.

Learn more about how to avoid bad breath below:

  • Oral hygiene
  • Eliminate bad breath

Recommendations from the editorial team

You might also be interested in:

  • Throat cancer
  • Abscess in the throat
  • Pain in the throat
  • Throat cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Vocal cord cancer
  • Tracheal cancer