Throat cancer symptoms, risk factors, and FAQs

Signs and symptoms

You should see your provider right away if you experience any of these common symptoms of throat cancer:

  • Changes in your voice, such as hoarseness or not speaking clearly
  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • A lump or sore that doesn’t heal
  • Sore throat
  • Weight loss

Risk factors

  • Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of throat cancer:
  • Tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Questions and answers (FAQs)

Can I talk if I have throat cancer?

If you have a type of throat cancer that affects your vocal cords, your voice will be affected, but most likely you will not lose your voice entirely. Part of your treatment plan and recovery will focus on keeping your voice and learning how to talk if you’ve had part of your larynx removed.

How can I detect throat cancer at home?

You can’t. If you have signs and symptoms of throat cancer, you need to be checked out by a specialist for a proper diagnosis of throat cancer or some other condition.

Can throat polyps turn into cancer?

No. Polyps, throat nodules and granulomas are benign and typically do not turn into cancer.