• By Laurel Kelly

Consumer Health: Treating tonsil cancer

May 27, 2021
a close-up of a serious-looking middle-aged man with a grey beard and hair

Your tonsils are two oval-shaped pads of tissue at the back of the throat — one on each side — that are your immune system's first line of defense against bacteria and viruses that enter your mouth.

Tonsil cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that forms in a tonsil. Tonsil cancer is often diagnosed late in the disease, when cancer has spread to nearby areas, such as the lymph nodes in the neck.

While it's not clear what causes tonsil cancer, health care providers are finding that HPV is increasingly playing a role. This common sexually transmitted infection is detected in most tonsil cancers in the U.S.

Treatment for tonsil cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Your health care provider's recommendation for you will depend on several factors, including the size, stage and HPV status of your cancer, as well as your overall health and preferences.

Here's what you need to know about treating tonsil cancer.