About 3 to 5% of all cancer cases diagnosed in the US each year are throat cancer. That account for about 24,000 to 39,000 people who see the ENT or primary doctor and discover they have throat cancer. If you have been referred to the ENT for suspected throat cancer here is what you need to know and how to be prepared.


Cancer occurs when normal cells in the body mutate and multiply.  These cells can outlive healthy cells and create tumors.  Since many of the symptoms of throat cancer mimic other conditions, the ENT will want to rule those out first.  Throat cancer symptoms include:

  • Hoarseness or changes in your voice
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in the ear
  • Sore throat
  • Weight loss

Smoking, gastric reflux disease, and human papilloma virus are all things that place you at a higher risk of throat cancer.

Preparing for the Visit

When you make your appointment, ask if there is anything you need to do in advance.  Should you restrict your diet or refrain from eating before the appointment are just a few questions to ask.

During the appointment, the ENT will want to know about any past medical treatments you may have had as well as details about your symptoms. Since you may be nervous in the examining room, it helps to jot this information down in advance. In particular be sure to include:

  • How long you have had symptoms
  • Any recent major stresses in your life
  • All medications and supplements, including vitamins
  • History of allergies
  • If the use of nasal adhesive strips helps.

You may be understandably nervous. That makes it hard for you to remember things that might be discussed.  For this reason and for emotional support, ask a close friend or family member to accompany you.  The ENT will not mind.

What to Expect During the ENT Visit

The ENT will thoroughly examine your throat.  An endoscope (a long thin wand with a light on the end) or a laryngoscope may be used to get a better look at your throat. If the ENT sees something unusual, they can pass an instrument through the endoscope or laryngoscope to take a small sample of tissue (biopsy) and send it to a laboratory for examination.

Other tests that may be ordered are involved with capturing images of your throat.  These can include x-rays, MRIs, PET scans, and CT scans. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about any exams or tests that may be ordered.

Questions to Ask the ENT

Communication is a two-way street. You want to make the best use of the time you have with the ENT so make a list of questions to take with you.  In addition, during or after the examination you will want to ask the ENT general questions like:

  • Is a diagnosis possible based on the examination?
  • Based on the preliminary diagnosis, what is the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives if the best course is not effective?
  • Are there changes I need to make to my lifestyle?

If tests were ordered, find out when you can expect the results and how they will be communicated to you. Will the office call you or are you to schedule another appointment.  These details are important; and you may want to assign your family member or friend to make sure you get this information!

Finally, ask what steps you need to take next.  You may be recommended to change your diet to reduce GERD if it is present. If your throat hurts too much for solid food, ask the ENT to recommend a liquid supplement or diet. The ENT is a partner in your care and wants to make sure you have answers to your questions.

Looking for an ENT for Throat Cancer?

If you are concerned about throat cancer, you need to see an expert as soon as possible. The earlier cancer is detected, the greater the chances of a positive outcome.

Pick up the phone and call Advantage ENT and Audiology. Don’t delay, when cancer is involved every day is precious.