Tonsil cancer symptoms include an enlarged tonsil on one side, mouth pain, blood in the saliva, a persistent sore throat and a sore in the back of the mouth that does not heal, according to Cedars-Sinai. Other symptoms include severe ear pain, bad breath and pain when swallowing.
Pain or a lump in the neck, intolerance to drinking or eating citrus foods, and difficulty speaking, swallowing or chewing can also be indicators of cancer of the tonsil, notes Cedars-Sinai. Risk factors for development of this type of cancer include alcohol or tobacco use, including snuff, which is a type of smokeless tobacco. Men are up to four times as likely as women to develop tonsil cancer, and most people are diagnosed after age 50.
When a cyst develops in adult tonsil cancer patients, it often signals that the cancer has metastasized. Many symptoms of tonsil cancer mimic those of strep throat, but cancer becomes more likely in patients over age 50, as stated by About.com.
Diagnosis of tonsil cancer usually involves a visual examination of the mouth and the back of the throat followed by tests such as blood tests and X-ray studies, explains Cedars-Sinai. Fine needle aspiration may be used to suction cells from the affected area for microscopic examination in a laboratory. Radiation is generally the first-line treatment for tonsil cancer in its early stages. A combination of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery may be used for more advanced tonsil cancer cases.