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What Are the Early Signs of Throat Cancer?

written by: CamillaPeters • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/18/2010

Throat cancer is characterized as irregular growths of unnatural cells within the throat (known medically as the pharynx) and/or the voice box (known medically as the larynx).

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    The National Cancer Institute estimates that almost 25,000 new diagnoses of throat cancer occurred in 2009. It has been thoroughly proven that tobacco smoke and excessive drinking greatly increase an individual's risk of developing throat cancer. Recongnizing the early signs of throat cancer is the first method of defense against this deadly disease. With prompt treatment, the survival rate increases dramatically.

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    Sore Throat

    The tissue inside of the throat is very delicate, so any unusual or irregular growths will have an effect on the way an individual's throat feels. One of the symptoms of a growth is having trouble swallowing food or liquids. The National Institute of Health's online resource, Medline Plus, says that a sore throat can be a sign of many things, but if the sore throat lasts for more than a week or two and antibiotics or other medicines don't work, it might be time to seek the advice of an experienced medical professional.

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    Hoarseness

    When the cancer is growing within the larynx (known as the voice box), it will disrupt a person's ability to speak as they normally do. Because the growth will impinge on the air that flows through the voice box, someone afflicted with throat cancer will have trouble speaking above a certain volume and may have trouble speaking clearly. They will also likely sound raspy, as if they have a "frog in their throat." These symptoms will likely get worse as the condition develops.

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    Cough

    The growth of the cancerous cells in the throat irritates the respiratory system and causes an afflicted individual to cough more than usual. The University of California at San Francisco's Health Center warns that coughing may also be accompanied by phlegm that's tinged with blood. Also, the cough may also be joined by the person having trouble breathing or "wheezing" when they do so.

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    Neck Swelling

    As with other cancers, tumors will develop in the location of the malignancy. Accordingly, Medline Plus says that inflammation and soreness around the neck area are also two of the signs of throat cancer. When a doctor is examining you for a diagnosis, she will feel the neck for any type of tenderness or identifiable lumps, which aid in making a correct diagnosis.

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    Weight Loss

    The aforementioned symptoms of throat cancer make it difficult for a person to swallow food or drink liquids. Over time, the reluctance to eat will lead to a noticeable loss of weight. If these symptoms have gone on long enough to cause noticeable weight loss, that is usually a good indicator that it is time to talk to a doctor.