Cancer of the tonsil is one of the head and neck cancers. It develops in the part of the throat just behind your mouth, called the oropharynx (pronounced oar-o-far-rinks). The main risk factors for developing this type of cancer are smoking and regularly drinking a lot of alcohol. If you smoke and drink a lot together, you increase your risk even further. Close to 45,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,650 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 45,750 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. Treatment may have either surgery or radiotherapy to treat early tonsil cancer.
Early means a small tumour that is still contained within the tonsil. If you have a cancer that is larger, has grown throughout the tonsil, or has started to grow outside it, you may have surgery followed by radiotherapy. More advanced cancers that have grown outside the tonsil may need shrinking before they can be removed. You may have chemotherapy or radiotherapy or both to try to shrink the cancer. This is called down staging. If the cancer does shrink, you may then be able to have an operation to remove it. Further research is being conducted to determine the best surveillance interval to monitor these cysts.