Throat Cancer

Make an Appointment

If you develop throat cancer, you'll need to seek the expertise of Virginia's first Comprehensive Cancer Center. Here, you'll find the experience and expertise you'll need.

Different Types of Throat Cancer

Throat cancer is also called oropharyngeal cancer. It's when cancer cells or tumor(s) form in the throat. The throat is made of a number of structures. Throat cancer represents cancers of the:

  • Epiglottis - flap in the throat that blocks the airways when you swallow food or drink
  • Tonsils
  • Soft palate - rear section of the roof of the mouth
  • Pharynx - tube part of your throat

Throat Cancer Treatment at UVA Health

At UVA Health, we'll do everything we can to help you heal and thrive. Your care will be led by a head and neck (otolaryngology) surgeon. Learn more about our expertise in treating head & neck cancer.

We'll tailor treatment based on the stage and type of cancer. A combination of therapies may be more effective. Our experts specialize in all the main types of treatment:


Surgery removes the cancerous tumor and nearby tissue and possibly nearby lymph nodes. In very rare cases, surgery to remove large tumors of the throat may also require removal of tissue for swallowing.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors. Radiation may be:

  • External radiation therapy: radiation directed at the tumor from a source outside the body
  • Internal radiation therapy: radioactive materials placed into the throat in or near the cancer cells


This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms including pill, injection and/or via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells.

Who's at Risk?

Throat cancer is more common in men and in people aged 40 years and older. Other things increase your chance of throat cancer:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family history
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Infections caused by certain viruses such as:
    • Epstein-Barr virus
    • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Radiation exposure
  • Excess consumption of cured meats or fish
  • Marijuana use
  • Occupational exposure to certain materials such as in nickel refining
  • Woodworking
  • Working with textile fibers

Signs of Throat Cancer

If you develop these symptoms, you'll want to be checked for throat cancer. 

  • Sore throat
  • Feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
  • Voice changes or hoarseness
  • Change in voice quality
  • Pain in the head, throat, or neck
  • Lump in the neck
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing blood

If you have cancer, you'll want to ask your doctor to refer you to a UVA Health otolaryngologist. Treatment works best the sooner we find cancer.