8 Types of Throat Cancer & its Pain Areas

What is Throat Cancer?

Throat cancer occurs when the cells present in the throat region undergo mutation, start dividing abnormally, and form a tumor. The throat region comprises various organs, such as the esophagus, trachea (windpipe), larynx (voice box), tonsils, and epiglottis. Throat carcinoma, carcinoma of the throat, and throat tumor are different throat cancer names.

Throat carcinomas are best treated when they are diagnosed early. It is necessary for one to learn about different types of throat cancer, their symptoms, and the possible causes. This can help in catching this cancer early and receiving appropriate treatment.

At HCG, we have a full-fledged head and neck oncology department that is supported by advanced technology, unmatched clinical expertise, and a compassionate team of clinicians and non-clinicians. This allows us to provide patients with the highest quality throat cancer treatment in India.

Difference Between Tonsillitis and Throat Cancer

Throat cancer and tonsillitis are two different conditions. Nonetheless, they may present with similar symptoms. Both conditions need prompt medical attention in order to be managed effectively.

Throat cancer refers to the cancerous growth in the throat region, and the possible causes include tobacco and alcohol consumption, HPV infection, and predisposition to certain inherited genetic conditions. Throat carcinoma or throat tumor will also need specialized treatment plans, which include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Tonsillitis, on the other hand, refers to the inflammation of the tonsils, which is commonly caused by certain viral or bacterial infections. Tonsillitis is often treated with antibiotics, sufficient fluid intake, and ample rest.

Both of these conditions often present with swelling and pain in the neck, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness in the voice, coughing, and more. If any of these symptoms last for more than two weeks, one should see a doctor and seek the necessary medical intervention.

Types of Throat Cancer

Based on the location of its origin, throat carcinoma is broadly classified into different types and sub-types that present with unique characteristic features.

The Pharyngeal Cancer & Its Types

Pharyngeal cancer refers to cancer that arises from the tissue of the pharynx. Pharyngeal cancer is classified into the following types:

The Laryngeal Cancer (Voice Box) & Its Types

Laryngeal cancer, or larynx cancer (voice box cancer), is a type of cancer that arises from the larynx tissue. Depending on the location of origin, the following are the different types of larynx cancer.

Oropharyngeal Cancer

Oropharyngeal cancer is a type of cancer that arises from the middle part of the pharynx. Previously, doctors predominantly linked oropharyngeal cancers with excessive consumption of tobacco and alcohol. However, in recent times, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers has been largely associated with oral HPV infection.

If detected early, this type of pharyngeal cancer can be treated successfully, and patients go on to live a normal life. Below is the table that summarizes the difference between HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer and non-HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer:

Nasopharyngeal Cancer & Its Types

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of pharyngeal cancer. It forms in the upper part of the throat. There are three main types of nasopharyngeal cancer:

Other Types of Throat Cancers

Along with the already discussed types of throat cancer, there are other less common types of throat cancer too.

Throat Cancer Pain Area

Pain is one of the most common symptoms of throat carcinoma. This pain may either come and go or be persistent. This pain can get worse while talking, swallowing, and yawning. Early throat cancer may not present with any pain; however, as the disease advances, patients start experiencing pain.

That said, pain can result from various other throat conditions. Therefore, for any pain that lasts for more than two weeks, it is necessary to see a doctor for a conclusive diagnosis. The following are the common and rare sites where throat cancer pain is observed.

Common Sites

Oropharyngeal Wall

Patients with oropharyngeal cancer often experience pain in the oropharyngeal wall, which is located right behind the mouth.

Soft Palate

The soft palate, which is the back part of the roof of the mouth (close to the uvula), is another common throat cancer pain area.

Rare Sites


Tonsils are one of the rare throat cancer pain areas. This pain may also be accompanied by swelling.

Base of The Tongue

Throat carcinoma patients may also experience pain at the base of the tongue.

When to see a doctor?

It is necessary to make an appointment with a doctor when one begins to experience unusual symptoms related to the throat. In most cases, these symptoms are caused by other, less severe throat conditions, too. Nonetheless, it is important to see a specialist for a definitive diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. If not diagnosed and treated on time, throat cancer can be dangerous. Early throat cancers can be treated effectively and have better survival rates, as compared to advanced-stage cancers. Hence it is important for one to be mindful of the different symptoms of this condition and promptly see a doctor when they experience anything unusual.

Not all patients diagnosed with the cancer of the throat succumb to the disease. The risk of death from this condition can depend on multiple factors, such as the stage at which it is diagnosed, the type of treatment administered, the treatment response shown by the patient, and the patient's overall health status.

Patients with stage 1 or early throat cancer have higher survival chances than those in advanced stages. Also, older patients with other medical conditions, patients who smoke, etc., have poor survival rates.

Throat cancer is a rare type of cancer. Nonetheless, its numbers have been on the rise in recent times due to various lifestyle factors, such as increased consumption of tobacco and alcohol, an increasing prevalence of HPV infection, obesity, etc.

Yes. Many studies link secondhand smoke exposure to increased throat carcinoma risk. Secondhand smoke is reported to contain more than 60 carcinogens, which makes it one of the possible reasons for throat cancer. Non-smokers are at a relatively higher risk of developing this condition through secondhand smoke exposure. Lastly, prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke can also contribute to the increased risk of this type of cancer.

In most cases, throat carcinoma is not hereditary. However, having a predisposition to certain inherited genetic disorders, namely Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita, can increase the risk of throat tumor formation. Also, certain mutations, such as the p53 mutation, can increase the risk of this cancer type.

Pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer are two different types of throat carcinoma. Pharyngeal cancer refers to cancer of the pharynx, whereas laryngeal cancer, or voice box cancer, refers to the cancer of the larynx (voice box). Larynx cancer is the most common type of throat carcinoma; pharyngeal cancer, on the other hand, is the second most common type of throat carcinoma.

Both laryngeal cancer and pharyngeal cancer are treated with a personalized treatment approach involving surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The 5-year survival rates for voice box cancer are relatively higher than those for pharyngeal cancer.

Yes. Throat cancer can spread from the pharynx to the larynx or vice versa, as these two organs are connected. If the cancer is spreading from one organ to another, it is referred to as metastasis.

Metastatic throat carcinomas are more challenging to treat than early-stage ones. Throat carcinomas in the metastatic stage need more complex treatment regimens to be managed effectively.

Stage 1 or early-stage throat cancer refers to a throat tumor that is small and localized. In most cases, since the tumor is confined to one organ, surgery alone is enough to treat it successfully. In some cases, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be recommended. Stage 1 or early throat cancers also have an excellent 5-year survival rate, which stands at 90%.