Throat Cancer

Throat cancer, or pharyngeal cancer, occurs when malignant cancer cells develop in the tissue of the throat or pharynx, the hollow, muscular tube that starts just behind the nose and ends at the top of the windpipe and esophagus. Throat cancer also includes cancer of the voice box (larynx), the cartilage "box" that contains the vocal cords, or the tonsils, which are located at the back of the throat. It also may refer to cancer of the nasopharynx (upper part of the throat behind the nose), the oropharynx (middle part of the pharynx), or the hypopharynx (bottom part of the pharynx). Most throat cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, or cancer that begins in the thin, flat cells that look like fish scales and line the inside of the throat. These mutated cells grow uncontrollably and can accumulate and form tumors in the throat.

Smoking and using chewing tobacco have been identified as risk factors for throat cancer, as has excessive alcohol consumption. Possible signs of throat cancer include sore throat and ear pain, a persistent cough, a lump in the neck or throat, and hoarseness, though each of those symptoms can be attributed to other factors.


Outstanding patient care is the primary focus of the UAB Medicine Head and Neck Oncology program. As a national leader in head and neck cancer treatment, we offer a number of surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for benign and malignant tumors. A multidisciplinary team approach is emphasized, combining the skills of head and neck surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, plastic and reconstructive surgeons, neurosurgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons, and speech and language pathologists.
A multispecialty tumor board meets weekly to discuss treatment options for patients with new and recurrent disease. A comprehensive patient support network is in place and often functions as the first line of contact for patients during treatment and post-treatment follow-up. 
Our Virtual Multidisciplinary Clinic allows patients to come from a distance and have much of their initial assessment done in one day, often avoiding multiple visits to multiple doctors.

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UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of throat cancer. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials