Understanding Tonsil Cancer


Tonsil cancer refers to the cancer that develops around the head as well as neck regions. It is more prevalent in the theoropharynx which consists of the last portion of the tongue, the soft part making up the back portion of the mouth roof, the actual tonsils or just the throat back wall.

The risk factors involved in getting tonsil cancerĀ 

As with most cancers associated with the oral cavity, the main risk emanates from smoking as well as drinking alcohol either singly or together. The HPV or human papilloma virus has been thought to cause this cancer. HPV is of different types and have been known to cause cancers of the cervix, vulva, penis, vagina and anus of human beings. The one which causes problems in the throat has been identified to be the HPV16 type of virus.

Tonsil Cancer

Researchers over the years have been struggling and working hard to identify how HPV is passed on. They have always suspected it could be due to oral sex but also feel it could be passed on due to mouth to mouth kissing and in many other ways.

The treatment options

There are three options for treatment of this condition. You can go for surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Now the key to all this is early detection. In its milder form, you can try out radiotherapy or surgery to cure the condition but if it is at an advanced stage, then chemotherapy may be the only solution to eliminate the source of cancer from its roots and to prevent any recurrence.

Depending on the stage, a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be advised by the physician. The attempt will be made to shrink the cancer growth and once that is achieved, it can be removed through surgery as well.

An advanced stage cancers can cause a lot of pain and there will be bleeding. The patient will have problems swallowing and will consequently start losing weight due to poor food intake. A liquid diet will certainly not help in mitigating the condition as that is not a sustainable option for over a period of time.

Researchers are also looking at other treatment options like photodynamic therapy. This involves the intake of a drug that attaches itself to the cancer cells and upon receiving the right light wavelength, it kills the cancer cells.

Success of treatment

It depends on a number of factors like the extent of cancer growth, whether it has spread to the lymph glands, whether it has managed to find its way into other parts of the body and so on. Surgery too will depend on the site as well as the size of the cancer. Laser surgery for instance has been found to be effective and can be done with local anaesthesia.


Tonsil cancer like other cancers needs to be detected early enough for its treatment. Prevention through abstinence from smoking, drinking and other forms of imbibing tobacco will go a long way.