What Does Throat Cancer Feel Like?

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Graphic of tumor in throat

Jon Michael Chan, MD, Department of Head & Neck/Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, discusses the symptoms and sensations of throat cancer and standard treatment options.

What are the most common symptoms of throat cancer?

The most common symptoms are persistent hoarseness, a sore throat lasting longer than four to six weeks, and trouble swallowing. A sore throat associated with ear pain is another worrisome symptom.

What does it feel like to have a throat cancer lump?

The sensation of a lump in the throat is called globus. Globus can have many different causes, including acid reflux, allergic rhinitis and throat cancer. A throat cancer lump is usually firm.

Is the lump painful at all times, or just when swallowing?

A throat cancer lump can be painful all the time and also when swallowing.

Does the feeling of a lump come and go, or is it always present?

Patients usually complain of a persistent sensation of a lump in the throat.

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What are the best treatments for throat cancer?

That depends on the location of the tumor, its size and stage. Tumors can be removed surgically with microscopes and lasers, with surgical robots, or with what is called an “open” procedure, in which they are removed through an incision in the neck. In advanced cases, the surgeon also removes any lymph nodes where the cancer might have spread. A nonsurgical option is radiation, with or without chemotherapy.

Does Roswell Park use combinations of treatments?

Yes. The Head & Neck Department holds a weekly meeting called a tumor board, during which we discuss our head and neck cancer patients and determine the best treatment for each. Our recommendations are based on guidelines established by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), clinical evidence (outcomes of clinical trials) and the experience of the physicians in our group.