Tonsil Cancer


The human body has 3 types of tonsils: 

  • Pharyngeal tonsil (adenoids) in the back of the throat
  • Lingual tonsils on the base of the tongue
  • Palatine tonsils on the sides of the throat
Cancer can affect any of the 3 types of tonsils, but it most often happens in the palatine tonsils. It is usually squamous cell cancer (cancer that only affects the top layer of the tissue), but it can also be a lymphoma (cancer that affects the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell).


Tonsil cancer symptoms may include:
  • Bad breath
  • Bloody or blood-tinged saliva
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing
  • Earache
  • Lump in the neck


First, you’ll meet with your doctor for a physical exam. You’ll talk about your symptoms and your doctor may order imaging tests such as X-rays, CT, MRI or PET scans. He or she may also perform a biopsy, which includes taking a small sample of tissue for viewing under a microscope.

Treatment Options

Tonsil cancer treatment depends upon whether or not it is diagnosed at an early or advanced stage. Depending on the stage, the cancer may require a combination of treatments. Treatment options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and robotic surgery. 

Your Aurora care team, including head and neck cancer specialists, will tailor a treatment plan for your unique needs.

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