Tonsil cancer/ melanoma


Hi my husband was just released today from the hospital after having a neck dissection.

Lets start from the beginning. Almost a year ago my husband had a swollen lymp node on his right side of neck. He said it would get big and be sore then get smaller. Since it would only bother him every now and then, never had it checked. In September of this year he finally mentioned it to his doctor and he examined it and felt it was nothing too much to worry about, but scheduled a biopsy to make sure. We waited for 3 weeks and still no pathology results back so I became involved and kept calling asking for results. Well I found out the first pathologist said predominantly benign but was showing abnormal charracteristics  forwarded it on to another lab for further study. This lab said the same thing and then off it went to another lab, out of province. This lab finally said she was favouring on the side of melanoma.

After 2 CT scans, a visit to a dermatologist she removed a few moles, which came back negative we were referred to an oncologist who ordered a PET scan. We received the results  from CT and PET scans, nothing showing anywhere else except tumor in his neck. Next we were referred to an ENT for the removal of the tumor.

He had his surgery on Monday. Surgeon said it was a very easy surgery with everything going well, no severing of any nerves or muscle. Today when we were discharged he gave us all of the information concerning his recovery and said the pathology results should be back in a few weeks and then we would know what comes next. He had said if it was melanoma the protocol would be some radiation treatments. We were feeling extremely happy at this point. When he said IF it is melanoma I questioned him. I said you don’t think it is melanoma then in your opinion what do you think it is? He said tonsil cancer although it could be a rare form of melanoma we will have to wait and see what the results are.

My question is wouldn‘t tonsil cancer show up on a CT scan or PET scan? 

I am so thankful for this site. Trying to stay strong for my husband but I am scared! 

My husband is 65 years old, he was an occasional cigar smoker and does like his scotch


  • Curlyn
    Curlyn Member Posts: 189
    I have been told the

    I have been told the following: if the primary tumor is HPV+ (not sure about HPV- tumor), and cannot be found ( perhaps it was base of tongue or tonsil , before it metastisized to neck lymph node), it is possible that the body's immune system took care of the primary (but unable to conquer the neck spread). Some people are unknown primary and that could be why. Perhaps the primary did not show up on PET scan because it is not there now. Also, if you look up PET scan, it usually states why some things don't show up. CT seems useless sometimes, and reading about the number of people on this site who have just watched and waited, as the cancer spread sneakily about, I don't know why the first protocol is not to just completely remove an abnormal appearing node. Save so much grief. Others might have something to add.

  • Snowbird1956
    Snowbird1956 Member Posts: 3
    Melanoma/ tonsil cancer

    Yes that is what the oncologist had said that the primary could have been killed off by the body. I am hoping that is the case and now since the lym node is now gone all the cancer is gone. All of this is so confusing and scary. Hopefully that will be the case and no tonsil cancer

  • CivilMatt
    CivilMatt Member Posts: 4,722 Member
    edited January 2018 #4


    Welcome to the H&N forum, I am sorry that you are here and I am not  sure  what you are dealing  with.  Normally, we receive a positive biopsy confirming cancer.  CT and PET scans are not perfect and biopsies are not always correct.  Usually, the scans show all areas of  activity (good and bad).  I do not know how your first biopsy was done, but the one on Monday should have gotten a good slice and will be able to fill in the blanks.  It is often wise to use an ENT experienced with H&N cancers (that is a given) and you may be in good hands.  Currently, the ENT does not know, hence his reluctance in opinion.  (You might  have a bad reaction to the ENT statement if it is proven wrong).  Getting started can difficult.

    You may want a 2nd opinion after the Monday biopsy has been confirmed.  You have a right to be upset and confused.  But, until they have a positive biopsy you are considered without cancer.


  • Frances_S
    Frances_S Member Posts: 54
    Hi Snowbird,

    Hi Snowbird,

    It is true that sometimes the body kills off the primary before the cancer is found. Most of the time SCC spreads to the lymph node area with no known primary. For my husband this was the case. Hopefully, the pathology comes back benign. I know waiting for the results is difficult, but it seems you are both heading in the right direction. I also believe it's important to get a second opinion if needed.

    My prayers are with both of you, and I hope it turns out to be nothing. Please keep us posted.


  • Snowbird1956
    Snowbird1956 Member Posts: 3
    edited January 2018 #6
    Melanoma/ tonsil cancer

    He has been diagnosed with cancer after the biopsy in September . The problem is since  it had to go to three different labs there was not enough tissue to further test it conclusively for melanoma. In 3 weeks we will know what type of cancer it is and go from there. We were so encouraged when they said it was just there. They had said probably a few radiation treatments and he would be good. 

    Now when the ENT surgeon said he was favoring tonsil cancer, that is another story.  Weeks before the surgery he put the camera up his nose and down ihis throat and never said anything about tonsil cancer. Even after the surgery he spoke to us and said the surgery went well and there were no surprises. Wouldn’t he have seen something when he looked down his throat with his camera.

    How this tonsil cancer issue came up is when he was discharging my husband. He said he would notify us when the results came back. That is when he said he didn’t think it was melanoma . That’s when I asked  then in your opinion what do you think it is and then he  said tonsil cancer. He wouldn’t have told us that if I hadn’t asked. 

    The Doctor is a very nice man and we liked him very much so we had a very open relationshi. I think maybe what he was saying it is so rare to have cutaneous  malignant melanoma  and not find a primary. 

    Other than the lump in his neck, my husband had no other signs. He has no loss of appetite, no fatigue, no sore throat, no weight loss ...nothing. He goes to the dentist every 6 months and most times that is who sees oral cancer first. 



  • bebo12249
    bebo12249 Member Posts: 181 Member
    he can look down the throat

    he can look down the throat with a camera and see nothing unusual if it is tonsie cancer and the tonsil has not yet enlarged. Also, an enlarged lymp glad without a primary site identified is not uncommon Including having no other symptoms.