Tonsil Cancer

As the name indicates, tonsil cancer is a form of throat cancer, mainly targets the tonsils which are located at the back of your throat. Tonsil Cancer is more likely to affect men than women.

Symptoms of Tonsil Cancer

In the initial stage of tonsil cancer, there aren’t any significant symptoms but throat pain is observed and most of the times it is confused with the regular throat pain. Some of the commonly observed symptoms are:

  • Sores in the back of the mouth or throat that do not heal
  • Unequal size of tonsils due to swelling (one would be larger than the other)
  • Mouth pain that does not go away
  • Ear aches
  • Difficulty and/or pain when swallowing
  • Pain when eating citrus fruits
  • Lumps in the neck
  • Neck pain
  • Sore throat that does not go away
  • Blood-tinged saliva

Treatment of Tonsil Cancer

Determining the treatment will only depend on stage and type of your tonsil cancer. In general, three types of treatments are used:

  • Surgery – This is the most recommended treatment for patients with stage I or II as it involves removing of the cancerous tissue without many complications.
  • Radiation - After surgery, radiation therapy is undertaken by patients to kill any remaining cancer tissue.
  • Chemotherapy – This is recommended for patients with stage III or IV of tonsil cancer. It involves treating the cancer with the use of drugs


The major risk factors of tonsil cancer are:

  • Consumption of a lot of alcohol on regular basis
  • Consumption of tobacco
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Continuous chewing of betel nut

Another major cause of the tonsil cancer has been linked to a human papilloma virus (HPV). According to research HPV16, a type of HPV increases the risk of oropharynx cancers which is passed on through sexual contact through oral sex but it may also be passed on through mouth to mouth contact or in other ways.

Tests and Procedures

There are certain tests that need to be done in order to provide a reliable diagnosis based on which the appropriate treatment is determined. The tests and procedures include:

  • Physical examination: The first step of diagnosing a patient involves thorough check up of external body and also obtaining complete health history.
  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan
  • Staging: Classifying the stage of tonsil cancer makes health professionals easy to understand and decide the required treatment. There are four stages and each one is indicated with roman numerals.

Stage I: The cancer is small (less than 2 cm), confined to one area, and has not spread to surrounding lymph nodes.

Stage II: The size of cancer lies between 2-4 cm but has not spread.

Stage III: The cancer is greater than 4 cm and has spread to one lymph node that is on the same side of the neck as the tumor.

Stage IV: This is the most complicated stage and it can exhibit any of the following things:

  • The cancer has spread to surrounding areas of the throat or mouth and/or more than one lymph node.
  • It has spread to one lymph node that measures over 6 cm.
  • It has spread to one lymph node on the opposite side of the neck as the tumor.
  • The cancer has spread to other parts of the body as well. .

Preventive Measures:

In order to prevent tonsil cancer one must follow certain things like maintain a healthy diet and oral hygiene as well. Limit the intake of alcohol and reduce smoking. If you follow the above said conditions you are more likely to avoid the risk of tonsil cancer.

Side Effects:

Every treatment will have side effects which may be short term or long term. Some of them are:

  • All food will taste very unusual
  • Skin outside where ray is directed will become red and burned
  • Hair is lost at both side of the neck (nape)
  • Go deaf in one ear due to fluid buildup. Grommet may have to be fitted to release fluid.
  • Beard hair not growing in area of radiation
  • Slight stiffness of jaw
  • Dryness in mouth
  • Sore throat

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