Cover image for the Tonsil Cancer article

Malignant tonsil cancer: symptoms and treatment in Türkiye

Tonsil cancer is one of the tumors of the oropharynx. It presents with several symptoms, including sore throat and bad breath. The incidence of tonsil cancer is worrisome, but early treatment prevents cancer risks.

However, with the diversity of causes of tonsil cancer, the exact direct cause is still unknown. Cancer manifests with several symptoms, but it may remain asymptomatic and not felt by the patient for a long time.

Tonsil cancer must be diagnosed early to avoid possible risks and complications of tonsil cancer because early treatment plays a vital role in the prognosis of the disease and the patient's quality of life after tumor treatment. People who have previously had tonsillectomy remain at risk of developing tonsil cancer because part of the tonsil tissue remains and is not entirely removed. Follow us in this article to learn about tonsil cancer and how it is treated in Türkiye.

An introduction to tonsil cancer

To learn about palatine tonsil cancer and how it is diagnosed, we must first know the exact location of the tonsils and the way the tumor originates in them. Tonsil cancer is a tumor of the pharynx. The pharynx is a muscular tube at the back of the mouth, nose, and throat covered with mucous tissue. Lymphatic tissue is located below the mucous membrane. Its function is to defend the body against germs and viruses coming from the outside world.

Image showing where the almonds are located
The location of the tonsils

Cancers of the pharynx and throat arise in the mucous tissue (squamous cell tumors), or lymphoid cells, called pharyngeal lymphoma. In tonsil cancer, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common. Then comes lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes in the tonsils).

The causes of each type of tonsil cancer differ, but the symptoms are often similar. Several gatherings of lymphoid tissue in the pharynx include the nasal polyps (pharyngeal tonsils), the tonsils behind the tongue (lingual tonsils), and the palatine tonsils. The palatine tonsils are the most common carcinomas of the pharynx.

Picture showing where the pharynx is located
Sections of the pharynx, its location, and the place of the tonsil in it

What are the symptoms of tonsil cancer?

Tonsil cancer may remain asymptomatic for an extended period sometimes, and the situation, in this case, is more serious, or its symptoms may be secondary, and the patient does not feel their importance. This leads to a delay in diagnosing cancer, and thus cancerous symptoms appear after the tumor has spread, treatment becomes difficult, and the cure rate is low.

Sometimes symptoms of the disease appear from the beginning, or they may be detected by chance in the early stages, which improves the prognosis of tonsil cancer and makes its cure rate high. There are many symptoms, and the main symptoms of a tonsillar tumor include:

  • The appearance of swelling at the top of the neck from the side is characterized as painless
  • One of the tonsils is enlarged on one side and is larger than the other
  • Hoarseness
  • Feeling general fatigue and exhaustion
  • Unexplained weight loss (without a specific reason)
  • Pain in the ear (usually in one ear, not both) or in the jaw
  • Frequent and persistent (chronic) sore throat
  • Bleeding out of the mouth
  • bad breath
  • Pain with difficulty swallowing that increases when eating
  • Difficulty opening the mouth

The preceding includes symptoms of tonsil cancer in adults, but this does not mean that these symptoms are specific to tonsil cancer, as they may appear in many other diseases other than cancer. However, what indicates cancer is the combination of these symptoms with the presence of tumor-prognostic risk factors, such as the advanced age of patients.

An image showing tonsil cancer that appears as an enlarged tonsil when the mouth is opened
An enlarged tonsil indicates tonsil cancer

Causes of tonsil cancer

The exact cause of tonsil cancer or throat cancer is still unknown. However, certain risk factors lead to cancer in the tonsils (tonsiloma), which are:


Old age is one of the most critical risk factors for tonsil tumors. Previous tonsillectomy does not protect against tonsil cancer because the removal is usually incomplete; therefore, there are remnants of tonsil tissue in which cancer develops.

HPV infection

It is a virus classified into several types, the most dangerous of which are HPV No. 16 and 18. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is transmitted through sex and causes warts in the genital area. If this virus reaches the pharynx and tonsils, it will cause tonsil cancer of the squamous cell type.

Smoking and alcoholism

Long-term chewing or smoking of tobacco causes an increased risk of tonsil cancer or throat tumors, as does alcoholism.

You may currently see cases of tonsil cancer in young people without the presence of the previous risk factors due to a genetic and environmental role behind the incidence of tonsil cancer.

Diagnosis of tonsil cancer

Cancer is diagnosed in the tonsils or the throat, pharynx, and even Throat Cancer By an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT) where first looks at the face and neck of the patient in search of any swelling; after that comes the stage of palpation, where he feels the areas that may hide a cancerous swelling in the face and neck.

The doctor also looks at the oral cavity for any enlargement of the patient's tonsils, and the suspicion of cancer rises when only one tonsil is enlarged.

Image showing tonsil cancer and amygdala enlargement when the patient opens his mouth
Diagnosis of tonsil cancer by direct vision when opening the mouth

The ENT doctor may resort to laryngoscopy using a flexible scope in case of suspicion of metastases or tumor infiltrates in the larynx of a patient with the disease.

After that, the doctor takes a biopsy of the enlarged tonsil and sends it to the pathologist, who examines it under a microscope and shows the cause of the enlargement, the type and degree of cancer, and the relationship of the HPV virus or not to the occurrence of tonsil cancer.

After that, imaging investigations are required to detect distant metastases and the local spread of cancer, the most important of which are:

  • Neck Echogram: To detect the spread of tonsil cancer in neighboring areas.
  • Simple chest x-ray: to detect transmissions to the lungs, if present.
  • CT and MRI: to detect transitions throughout the patient's body.
  • PET Scan: It can accurately detect metastases wherever they are.

The type of treatment that should be followed in the case of tonsil cancer is decided according to the results of radiological examinations and after knowing the extent of cancer and its locations in the patient.

Tonsil cancer treatment in Türkiye

Treatment for tonsil cancer varies according to its size, type, invasiveness, and distant metastasis. Each patient has been prescribed a variety of treatment plans that suit his condition to achieve the best results in treating cancer. In general, tonsil cancer treatment plans include three methods: surgical, radiological, and chemotherapy, all of which are conducted in a hospital dedicated to treating oncology and under the supervision of the best doctors in Turkey.

Surgical treatment (removal of the palatine tonsils with cancer)

Surgery is used to cure tonsil cancer when the tumor is small and localized within the tonsil and has not spread beyond it to nearby organs. In this case, the operation is considered the first line of treatment (the first line, the first treatment option that we resort to).

The tonsillectomy Operation is done under general anesthesia; the sample is sent to histopathology after surgery to ensure the tumor has been completely removed. The cure rate for tonsil cancer is 100%, and the patient continues his life usually.


We resort to radiotherapy if the tumor is large and affects swallowing clearly, or if surgical excision is performed. Still, the histopathology result told us that the cancer was not completely removed.


We rely on chemical compounds to treat tonsil cancer if the type of tumor responds to this type of treatment. We also use it if the cancer has spread to distant places in the body to relieve cancer symptoms.

Sometimes we may adopt the choice of two of the above methods or all three methods together in treating the tumor, and the order of their use differs from one patient to another according to the stage of cancer progression in each person.

Tonsil tumor prognosis (the cure rate for tonsil cancer)

As mentioned earlier, the prognosis of tonsil cancer and the rate of recovery from it depends on the stage in which it was discovered, its size, transmission, and type. Tonsil cancer affects adults between 60 and 70 years old and is considered a bad prognosis if it is associated with other diseases in the patient.

Recently, cancer of the throat, pharynx, and tonsils with squamous cells affected young people (under 40 years) due to its association with infection of the throat with the HPV virus. However, it remains a better prognosis than cancer in the elderly (despite infection with the HPV virus in young people because their general health is better than the elderly).

The incidence of tonsil cancer is worrisome, but it does not mean inevitable death. Instead, with the progression of the tumor stage, treatment becomes more difficult. Accordingly, studies were conducted on patients with tonsil cancer to find out the percentage of the possibility of life for five years with this disease. The results according to the studies were as follows:

Treating early-stage cancer: Studies show a minimum 5-year survival rate of 85%.

Treatment of cancer that has spread to nearby organs and metastasized to nearby cervical lymph nodes: at least a 5-year survival rate is 68%.

Treatment of advanced malignant tonsil cancer: at least a 5-year survival rate is 40%.

Tonsil cancer is a malignant disease with silent symptoms until it spreads and causes a deterioration in the patient’s health. Curing it is possible; the earlier the treatment, the better the result. Contact us and book your appointment directly so we can guide you to the best doctors in Türkiye for tonsil cancer treatment.


  1. Cedes Sinai
  2. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  3. City of Hope
  4. healthline
  5. WebMD

Frequently Asked Questions

In the event of a delay in treating throat and tonsil cancer and not managing it early, the cure rate decreases, and the possibility of life-threatening complications is more significant. However, with good treatment and management (even in advanced stages of tonsil cancer), the person survives for five years by 40%, according to the latest studies (of course, the percentage is higher in the case of early treatment).

Tonsil cancer appears as an enlargement of one of the tonsils on one side of the throat when the patient opens the mouth to the examining doctor.

Sore throat and tonsils occur most commonly in young children and the cause behind sore throat and tonsils is infection with germs and viruses (such as streptococcus germs), while tonsil cancer usually affects the elderly and is caused by abnormal proliferation of cells that make up the tissue of the palatine tonsil. Persistent sore throat, pharynx and tonsils are symptoms Palatine tonsil cancer.

At the beginning of the manifestation of cancer, it is in the form of a painless swelling in the palatine tonsil, which may give swelling on the side of the neck, and this swelling does not cause any pain. As the disease progresses and the cancer spreads, it may cause pain in the throat while swallowing, along with pain in the jaw or ear.

If you are planning for treatment in Turkey
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If you are planning for treatment in Turkey
you can talk to us here.