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 both malignant (cancerous) and benign (non-cancerous) tumors. We use a team approach that combines the expertise of head and neck surgeons; ear, nose, and throat physicians (otolaryngologists); medical and radiation oncologists; speech and swallowing specialists; dentists and prosthetic dentists; nutritionists; speech and language pathologists; and supportive care professionals.

A group of specialists called a tumor board meets weekly to discuss treatment options for patients with new and recurring cases of oral cancer. The board considers the latest clinical trials, immunotherapy (treatments that focus on the body’s immune system), and the most advanced surgical techniques in designing a treatment plan for each individual patient. And for the convenience of our patients, especially those who live far away, our Virtual Multidisciplinary Clinic enables patients to have much of their initial assessment done in one day, often avoiding multiple visits to different doctors.






UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for 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