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Head and Neck Cancer

Tonsillectomy and Throat Cancer

10/13/2008

Question:

I have had inflated tonsil from age of 5 and had good 3 years of no bother since I changed country when I was an adult. I had my 1st baby 4 years ago and since then its giving me trouble. Doctors said 1 side is much bigger than the other and I am booked for surgery. My maternal grandmum died of throat and stomach cancer and nearly all female from mums side died of cancer. The doctor said the bigger tonsil can have or in future might have tumor in it. I am really scared to have this operation as I have 2 little kids and don`t know whether to go through with this. What are my chances of getting cancer if I dont get it removed? What are my chances of dying if I have this op and will it affect my vocal chords? What`s the worst case scenario of recovery for a 31 year old female?

Answer:

Is has been determined that your tonsils need to come out….unless it is obvious that you have a tumor in the one I would definitely remove both. The likelihood is that no tumor will be found. Asymmetry between the tonsils is quite common. The main causes of tonsilar cancer are chronic use of tobacco and alcohol. More recently human papillomavirus has also been implicated.

If you are a non smoker, do not consume alcohol excessively, and do not have or had many sexual partners your risk of developing tonsilar cancer is very low. Even if you have all these risk factors, your risk still remains low since the incidence of tonsilar cancer is very low.

The main problem with this surgery is pain which will last 7-10 days. Mortality form tonsillectomy is rare. Bleeding can happen. To not be able to control bleeding is exceedingly rare.

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Response by:

Pierre  Lavertu, MD, FRCS(C), FACS Pierre Lavertu, MD, FRCS(C), FACS
Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University