6 Early Signs of Throat Cancer You Might Ignore

Throat cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until later stages, but sometimes it can, and early detection makes for more effective treatment. If you notice any of the following throat cancer symptoms, or if you have a history of smoking or excessive alcohol use, call your doctor.

Throat cancer symptom: a lump on the neck

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If you notice a lump on your neck that you've never felt before, it could be a sign of throat cancer. "This means the tumor most likely metastasized from the throat to the neck," says Eric Genden, MD, chairman of ENT at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. Lumps are most commonly felt right under the jaw, he says, but they can also present elsewhere on the neck. These are other cancer symptoms women ignore and cancer signs men tend to overlook.

Throat cancer symptom: changes in your voice

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Cancers that form on the vocal cords can often cause hoarseness or a change in the sound and pitch of your voice; luckily, these noticeable changes often lead to an earlier diagnosis and are one of the early signs of throat cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. If the hoarseness doesn't go away within two weeks, see a doctor. These causes of cancer might surprise you.

Throat cancer risk factor: you or your partner have HPV

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It's well known that human papillomavirus (HPV) can increase your risk of developing cervical cancer if you're a woman, but in the past decade, oral cancers linked to HPV have increased at least fourfold in both men and women, according to The Mount Sinai Hospital. The CDC estimates about 70 percent of oropharynx cancers (tumors in the back of the throat) may be caused by HPV. "There has been an explosive epidemic of HPV associated cancers. Men are now getting throat cancer at alarming rates," says Dr. Genden. Exactly how HPV is linked to oral cancers is still murky, but Dr. Genden says what's clear is that more and more men are developing HPV infection in their throat, mostly via oral sex; and while there's not yet a way to test men for the virus, knowing your partner's HPV status is one way to exercise precaution. Some symptoms of HPV-associated throat cancer are pain while chewing, sores on the neck that don't heal, difficulty swallowing, or hoarseness. Be sure not to fall for these HPV myths that could seriously damage your health.

Throat cancer symptom: feeling like something's in your throat

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If it always feels like you've got something stuck in your throat (this is called "foreign body sensation" in the medical world), it could mean a tumor is blocking part of your throat. "This is a very common presentation. People sense there's something there but they can't see it," says Dr. Genden. Difficulty swallowing can also be one of the early signs of throat cancer. Here are some simple ways you can prevent throat cancer.

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Throat cancer symptom: coughing up blood

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Many conditions other than cancer can cause you to cough or spit up blood, such as pneumonia or bronchitis; however, throat cancer can, too. Coughed-up blood is usually bright red in color and looks bubbly from mixing with air and mucus.

Throat cancer symptom: persistent sore throat

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If you're not sick but just can't seem to kick that scratchy sore throat, it could be one of the early signs of throat cancer. Tumors that form in the area below the vocal cords often cause this symptom, according to the American Cancer Society. Learn how to tell if the soreness is actually one of these symptoms of thyroid cancer.

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