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Your tonsils are part of your immune system. They are found at the back of your throat and come in three types, all of which work to fight infections. At the back of the throat, you have your pharyngeal tonsils, also known as your adenoids. On the sides of your throat are the palatine tonsils. Down at the base of your throat are the lingual tonsils.

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What Is Tonsil or Throat Cancer?

The tissue that produces the cancer cells affects what type of cancer is contracted. Any part of your tonsils as well as the base of your tongue and soft palate can be affected by tonsil or throat cancer. Most often, throat cancer is found in the palatines located on the sides of your throat, but it can also be found in other places in the throat. Cancers of the throat can take the form of carcinomas or lymphomas.

Symptoms of throat cancer include bleeding, loss of taste, sore throat, ulcers or lumps in the throat, ulcers in the mouth and difficulty swallowing. The risk of developing throat cancer is greater if you are a heavy alcohol drinker or nicotine user. Even nicotine users who don’t smoke, but rather use snuff or betel nut, still have a risk of throat cancer. In addition, throat cancer can develop in people who do not use alcohol or nicotine due to other underlying conditions, such as having a weak immune system from HIV/AIDS or other immune system illnesses.

How is Tonsil Cancer Misdiagnosed?

If you go to the doctor with symptoms that suggest tonsil cancer, the doctor will generally examine the inside of your mouth and throat to see if there is a tumor. The doctor will also check for spread of the tumor into the nose and ears. Blood tests and X-rays are next to see if the cancer has spread into the lungs or the rest of the body.

Another diagnostic method the doctor might use is a fine needle aspiration biopsy. In this procedure, cells from the tumor are suctioned out through a needle that has been inserted into the mouth. The cells can be checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.

It is important to treat any kind of cancer as quickly as possible, and tonsil cancer is no exception. If the cancer is a carcinoma in its early stages, radiation therapy or induction chemotherapy might be used to shrink the tumor. If the cancer is advanced, surgery might be required before the radiation and chemotherapy.

Proper diagnosis of any kind of cancer is vital. Most cancers, including tonsil cancer, will spread if no treatment is given. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes misdiagnose tonsil cancer as tonsilitis or adenoiditis, two less serious conditions. If the cancer is misdiagnosed, it isn’t treated as quickly – or at all – which can lead to serious complications or even death.