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Quitted drinking. Noticed lump in back of throat and feeling discomfort. Could it be throat cancer?

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ENT Specialist
Practicing since : 1991
Answered : 2447 Questions
Hello Doctor,

I am seeing an ENT tomorrow, however, I'm in some discomfort now and wanted to submit a question. For the last month or so I have noticed the feeling of a "lump" in the back right side of my throat, right around my Adam's XXXXXXX I mostly feel it when I swallow and it is a little scratchy. My right sinus is typically clogged and I know I do have some post-nasal drip, which my GP has said could cause some of my throat feelings when I've asked him in the past. However, in the last several weeks, the lump feeling has become much more pronounced, and at night it takes on a dull ache which tends to radiate down into the top right side/front of my chest. Also, drinking ice water tends to make the right upper and lower side of my throat painful. My right ear feels full and has occasionally had ringing or fluttering too. I was at my dentist last week and he examined my mouth and felt my neck and did not see or feel any lesions/lumps (though he could only see so far down my throat). My main concern is that I was a heavy drinker for about five years and that I may have throat cancer. It has been a year and a half since I stopped drinking for good (I've more than cleaned up my act, thankfully), and it has been 7 months since I stopped drinking Diet Coke as well. I have smoked the occasional pipe and/or cigar (usually no more than 2 or 3 times a year), but besides that have never smoked regularly. Any insight you might have into what may be causing this lump and discomfort would be helpful. Thank you in advance.
Posted Sun, 17 Feb 2013 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Sumit Bhatti 7 hours later

Thank you for your query.

1. These symptoms are most likely due to lymphoid hypertrophy or chronic laryngitis secondary to a post nasal drip (PND). These conditions make the throat sensitive, for example with ice cold water. The symptoms are worsened by acid reflux and drying of the throat, sometimes due to nasal obstruction or snoring.

2. The fullness, ringing and fluttering in your right ear may be a referred sensation if your ear examination and tests are within normal limits. The pyrifiorm fossa (a normal pocket next to the voice box) must be examined.

3. Hence an ear, nose, sinuses, neck and XXXXXXX video-endoscopy is important.

4. Get a USG Neck done to check the neck swelling. If there is any suspicion of missing a XXXXXXX seated tumor, a CT (include the Sinuses) and MRI Neck will settle the issue. There are tumor marker screening blood tests available.

5. Cancer symptoms do not subside and hence the chances of cancer is very low. Cancer will have many other signs and symptoms such as change in voice, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, unexplained bleeding and so on. Consequently, if all the above investigations and examinations are normal, yopiu must accept that there is no cancer. The symptoms may be treated with medication (including reducing the PND) and tackling any benign lymph node or tumour, if any.

6. Your age, alcohol intake and occasional exposure to tobacco do not put you in a very high category of cancer risk. It is good to hear that you have stopped. Over the next few months and years your risk of developing any cancers will drop to that of a normal person who has never smoked, nor had alcohol.

I hope that I have answered your query. If you have any further questions, I will be available to answer them.

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