Throat cancer is a form of head and neck cancer. It usually starts in the throat (pharynx), the voice box (larynx), the vocal cords, or the tonsils.
The symptoms of throat cancer vary based on the location of the tumor. They can include ear pain, neck pain, or a sore throat.
Causes of Throat Cancer
Like mouth cancer, cancer of the throat is often associated with tobacco and alcohol use. But in recent years, infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) has emerged as a major cause of tonsil cancer and other cancers of the oropharynx. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 70 percent of the oropharyngeal cancer diagnosed in the United States is linked to HPV.
Treatments for Throat Cancer
Throat cancer treatments may include head and neck surgery, radiation therapy, drug therapy, or a combination of these. Which approach is right for you depends on many factors. These include the size and location of the tumor, whether the tumor is linked to HPV infection, and your own personal preferences.
Quick Facts about Throat Cancer
- Throat cancer operations are best performed by doctors who are board certified in head and neck surgery. At MSK, the primary goal of throat cancer surgery is to cure the cancer while preserving your appearance and the functions of your throat.
- Radiation therapy is another important aspect of throat cancer care. Often radiation and chemotherapy are given in combination. This is called chemoradiation. They boost the effectiveness of treatment and achieve better outcomes when used together. MSK’s radiation oncologists have special training in caring for people with cancers of the throat.
- Knowing the HPV status of a throat tumor is very important. Many times people with HPV-positive throat cancer can receive less-intensive treatment. MSK’s throat cancer specialists are pioneering new treatment approaches that can lead to better long-term outcomes. Learn more about treatment for HPV-positive throat cancer.
- People with advanced throat cancer may benefit from cutting-edge therapies, such as immunotherapy or targeted therapy. These are often offered through clinical trials. MSK runs one of the largest head and neck cancer clinical trial programs in the United States.
- Side effects of throat cancer and its treatment can include problems with swallowing and speech. Having experts in rehabilitation, speech pathology, and more is an essential part of MSK’s holistic approach to throat cancer care. Learn more about our speech and swallowing experts.
- Tobacco and alcohol use are major risk factors for throat cancer. MSK offers a tobacco cessation program that has helped thousands of people quit.