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Tonsil Cancer

Tonsil cancer is a form of oropharyngeal cancer affecting the tonsils in the back of the throat, which are known as the palatine tonsils.

The tonsils serve as protection for the body, preventing infections by filtering what we ingest and inhale.

Risk factors

The primary risk factors for tonsil cancer include:

  • Tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Being male
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

The HPV link is particularly important, as it has been shown to be a greater risk factor for tonsil cancer than tobacco and alcohol consumption.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that more than 70 percent of new cases of oral cancers were linked to HPV, putting it ahead of tobacco use as the leading cause of such cancers.


Symptoms of throat cancer, including tonsil cancer, are often mistaken as cold or strep throat. The most common symptoms are a sore throat that doesn’t go away, difficulty swallowing, or feeling a lump in your throat or neck.

Other potential symptoms of tonsil cancer include:

  • Sores in the mouth or throat
  • Swollen and inflamed tonsils
  • Mouth pain that does not go away
  • Earache
  • Neck pain
  • Bloody saliva


Our approach to everything we do is patient-focused. Our team of experienced, board-certified head and neck specialists find that this approach leads to the best results and greater patient satisfaction.

Diagnosis begins with a thorough and accurate medical history obtained through discussion and interaction between you and your physician. This is followed by a physical examination.

After the medical history and physical examination results have been reviewed, additional diagnostic and imaging tests may be ordered to confirm or rule out a specific diagnosis.

These tests may include:

  • Biopsy
  • Endoscopy
  • Blood tests
  • X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Magnetic resonance images (MRI)


We are here for you from the moment you walk in our state of the art facility, to the moment you have fully recovered. We offer a wide variety of treatments for all types of oral cancers, including oral cancer.

Our team works with every patient to create a treatment plan that is unique to them and their needs. We do not believe that "one size fits all" when it comes to cancer treatment.

The type of treatment will depend on the size, type, location and depth of the tumor. Treatment may include:

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays and beams to kill cancer cells. Although radiation therapy can be used for early stage tonsil cancer, it is most commonly used along with chemotherapy and/or surgery.


Chemotherapy is often combined with radiation and/or surgery in the treatment of tonsil cancer. Chemotherapy is administered orally or intravenously and disrupts the growth of cancer cells. It can also be used for palliative therapy to provide relief from symptoms and slow the growth of the tumor in patients where surgery is not possible.


Surgery is often used to treat tonsil cancer. Although it can be part of the treatment plan for all stages of tonsil cancer, it is commonly used as solo treatment for early-stage, small tumors that have not spread. Advanced tumors may require a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

For more information about our services, please call us at 714-456-7017 or request an appointment online ›

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