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What Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Tonsil?

Drinking and smoking can increase a person's chances of getting squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil.
An examination with a lighted scope can help diagnose squamous cell carcinoma.
Smoking cessation will reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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Squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil is the most commonly diagnosed cancer of all head and neck cancers. An estimated 90 percent of tonsil cancers are squamous cell cancers, which originate in the linings of mucus membranes and skin tissue. Males over 40 who drink heavily and use tobacco products are at the highest risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma.

Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil include using tobacco products, not taking proper care of teeth, eating too few vegetables and fruit, or heavy drinking. Previously contracting human papillomavirus-HPV also increases one's risk factor for developing the cancer. The cessation of high-risk behaviors, including drinking, smoking, and unprotected sex, helps decrease the risk of this condition, though it does not eliminate it. Some people with none of the known risk factors still develop cancer.

A persistent sore throat or cough are two symptoms of tonsil cancer. In addition, an earache that will not go away, bleeding from the mouth, a lump in the neck, and difficulty swallowing can indicate tonsil cancer's presence. Similar symptoms are also common with less serious medical issues; however, only an evaluation by a medical professional can rule out cancer.

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A diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil usually requires an examination with a lighted scope and a biopsy of the tissue. CT scans, MRIs, and x-rays are also helpful tools in the diagnostic process. When a malignancy is confirmed, the next step is staging. This step identifies how far the cancer has advanced and whether it is contained in the throat or has also spread to other organs. Staging determines treatment options.

Prognosis of squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil depends on several factors. The patient's overall health and ability to withstand treatment are important prognosis elements. What stage the cancer is in when discovered, as well as the location and size of the cancer, also play an important role in the eventual prognosis. Cancers caught early have a high cure rate, while advanced cancers provide the biggest challenge for treatment success. Patients are urged to maintain treatment plans, join support groups, and learn stress-relieving techniques.

Follow-up care for tonsil cancer includes regular medical check-ups. The physician will check for a re-occurrence and provide support for treatment consequences. This can include prescribing vitamins and nutritional supplements for patients with decreased ability to take in adequate nutrition from food due to the aftereffects of cancer treatment.

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bluedolphin
Post 3

The hardest part about throat and tonsillar cancer is being unable to eat. I was tube fed for months until my treatment was over. That was very tough and I lost a lot of weight. Of course side effects of chemo medications make things even worse.

If I knew that I would face this in life, I would have never started smoking. I believe I developed tonsillar cancer from my heavy smoking.

donasmrs
Post 2
@turquoise-- Treatment depends on the individual, the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread or not, like you also said.

I think the tonsils are removed as a first step and then the doctor will determine if chemotherapy or radiation therapy will be necessary.

My dad had to have all of these treatments because his cancer was spreading. Squamous cell carcinoma in the tonsils is dangerous because it can spread very quickly to the throat, mouth and the lymph nodes. So whatever is necessary to keep that from happening and to treat the current cancer should be done in my opinion. My dad was clear of cancer before all of his chemotherapy and radiation therapy was completed. But he went through with the rest of the sessions to make sure the cancer wouldn't return.

turquoise
Post 1

Does tonsillar squamous cell carcinoma require chemotherapy? If it has not spread, can it be treated just by removing the tonsils?

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