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Smoker. Developed sore throat. Tested positive for strep. What are the chances of throat cancer?

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Internal Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 2007
Answered : 362 Questions
I have already consulted this site about this issue, but I am not getting anywhere with my doctors here and would like another opinion. Long story short, I was a smoker from age 19-27. I am now 37. I had a relapse last year and smoked for about 8 months or so and quit again over a month ago. About a month ago, I developed a sore throat that wouldn't go away (with no other symptoms). After about 10 days I went to a walk in clinic and they did a strep test and said it was negative, but then at the last minute decided it was positive because he thought he could see an extremely faint line an prescribed me amoxicillan. The amoxicillan did not do much. My throat was still sore for a good week or so on the left side only, and would get a little better then come back again, then go away again. I also developed some ear pain on that side, that has come and gone. Last week I went into my XXXXXXX medicine doctor, she did an examination and said she didn't see or feel anything and to wait another 3 weeks for the pain to go away - saying that it could take up to a month after finishing the antibiotics for the pain to go away. The type of pain in my throat seems to be changing. It was fine for a few days, and now for the past three days it feel like a sharp pain or razor blade when I swallow food only. I am extremely concerned and feel like I am going a bit crazy thinking I have a throat cancer. It has been exactly a month now that I have been having all these different throat and ear pains. It just doesn't seem normal, and I am at a loss. My dr. said to come back for an X-ray after waiting the 3 weeks, but I am going crazy here as the pain keeps coming and going and is different. Maybe I am making it worse by stressing about it, but I certainly am not imagining it. I can't imagine what else it could be with it lasting this long and continuously coming back. Also, would an X-ray be better than a scope of the throat or should I request that when I go back? Would love any thoughts. Thank you.
Posted Mon, 30 Jul 2012 in Cancer
Answered by Dr. Kiran Kumar 2 hours later
Thanks for writing in. Thanks for the detailed history.
As of now, its extremely unlikely that you have a cancer. Cancer would have some symptoms like bleeding ulcers or a growth or an abnormality that your physician would have picked up on an exam. If this has not been done, what you need right now is a good clinical exam with a mirror.
only if there is something suspicious after a proper clinical exam, we would need to take a biopsy at that time
About your symptoms, most of the times, sorethroats are due to common bacteria or viruses. Majority of the infections, usually subside with a course of antibiotics and pain usually resolves in 2 - 3 weeks. Your symptoms have been prolonged a bit. Also, you have mentioned that the pain keeps coming again and again and is different.

There can multiple conditions which can cause such a condition. Broadly, they fall into two categories.
1. Infectious cause.
Recurrent throat infection, ulcer in the throat, infection due to atypical organisms.

A clinical exam followed by a swab for a culture can help us with this. .

2. Noninfectious causes.
If there is no evidence of any local infection or ulcer in the throat, we must think of non infectious causes. Although they are not very common, they however can cause such symptoms.

such conditions are glossopharyngeal neuralgia or pains due to styloid process.

Hope this clarifies your concern.

Please get back if you need any further information.


Dr Kiran

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