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When throat cancer first develops, it may not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, as a tumor grows larger, it can place pressure on the esophagus, voice box and other nearby structures. This can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms in the neck and throat.

Common warning signs of throat cancer

While throat cancer can affect different people in different ways, most people experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A persistent cough or sore throat
  • A cracking or hoarse voice
  • Chronic headaches or earaches
  • A visible lump in the throat

Additionally, late-stage throat cancer can affect the entire body, causing symptoms such as weight loss and fatigue.

When to see a doctor for a sore throat and a cough

While many common conditions can (and often do) cause these same symptoms, it’s important to have any persistent issues evaluated by a physician. Most of the time, issues that are caused by strep throat, the common cold or flu go away (or at least start to) within several days. Symptoms that last longer than a week do not necessarily indicate cancer, but may merit additional testing. Imaging scans and tissue tests can help determine if cancer is present.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer advanced diagnostic testing for throat cancer, as well as a comprehensive range of treatments. Our Head and Neck Cancer Program does not require physician referrals. If you’d like to request an appointment to have your symptoms evaluated by a throat cancer specialist, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.