The American Cancer Society states that early signs of throat cancer include hoarseness of voice, a sore throat, pain or trouble swallowing, and a lump on the neck. The early signs depend on the location of the cancer. For instance, if the cancer starts on the vocal cords, then hoarseness of voice is an early sign. If it starts above the vocal cords, hoarseness comes later.
WebMD advises that anybody who has a sudden change in voice or a consistently sore throat should be checked out by a doctor, as these symptoms may be signs of throat cancer. Other symptoms include ear and neck pain, trouble breathing and weight loss, as explained by the American Cancer Society.
In order to test for cancer, doctors perform any number of procedures, WebMD states. The first and most obvious of these procedures is a physical exam of the throat and neck to see if there are any lumps or anomalies. Other procedures include a laryngoscopy or endoscopy, which is when a doctor exams the larynx or other internal organs using a lighted tube. A biopsy might be performed, with tissue taken from the affected site so that doctors can examine it and determine if it is cancerous.
Although the exact cause of throat cancer is unknown, the cancer starts with the mutation of healthy throat or voice box cells, states Mayo Clinic. The specific name of the throat cancer that is applied to a patient's condition depends on where the cancer started. Five stages are used to describe how the cancer has progressed or spread throughout the body. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms or other parts of the body can indicate that the cancer has metastasized.