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Recurring sore throat

Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2009

I was diagnosed with a throat cancer (right tonsil) tumor in April. I had three chemo (cysplatin) and 35 rad treatments, the last of which was on July 8th. I had the PEG tube installed and for about six weeks that was my source of nutrition. I had the tube removed about a month ago. I kept up my weight during treatment but since the tube was removed I've dropped about twenty pounds. I'm gaining strength, able to exercise in the gym and am returning to work on Monday (part time). I had a PET scan this month that showed the tumor had shrunk from 5 to 1cm and was still contained - had not spread anywhere else. I doctors says it is still shrinking and will for at least six months after treatment. I don't have another doctor appointment until the end of November. I still am having trouble eating. No saliva production. Taste is gone. Eat lots of soup and drink lots of smoothies and ensure. Last week though, my throat started to burn again and feels swollen and raw on the right side. This is very similar to the way it felt at the end of radiation and for weeks after. I even went back to Magic Mouth wash to help with the soreness. I want to tell myself it's something I ate (I keep trying different foods). My doctor says this is a side effect of the radiation even four months out but of course, I'm worried the tumor is coming back. I'm concerned that the pain in my throat isn't getting much better. Has anyone had similar recurring throat issues? If so, what did you do? Thoughts?

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

I have been advised by both doctors and people on this site that radiation lasts quite some time beyond the last actual treatment. There is some difference of opinion about how long it continues to 'cook', but there seems to be no disagreement about the fact that it does so.

I have heard, for example, that it will continue to 'cook' for as long as six months after the last treatment. I cannot tell you that that is a fact, but it might explain your current tenderness in the throat. As recently as yesterday a swallow lady (barium swallow lady, that is) advised that the effects of radiation may still be impacting me more than three years after my last of 35 treatments (I played hookie for two, so techinically 33).

I tend to think that is exaggeration, but it does point to the notion that rads can last long past the last dose.

I think it's great that you have managed to lose the tube and that you are experimenting with different foods. In my own experience, after surgery, rads and chemo my taste buds were like those of a baby, everything extremely enhanced, even salt and pepper to spicy at first. As you continue on, I am confident your taste buds will recover. Regrettably, it is not so easy to say that about saliva glands, as they can be nuked permanently by rads.

Keep up the good work, try to be patient, and if the pain persists or becomes intolerable, definitely bring it to doc's attention.

In the mean time, congratulations on your survivorship!

Take care,


ratface's picture
Posts: 1320
Joined: Aug 2009

My cancer was base of the tongue and right tonsil. I had 39 Rad treatments and chemo. As I type I can still feel the radiation working. I finished four weeks ago. I doubt the cancer would travel to your throat. Most likely would take the usual path to the lymph nodes. Have your ENT scope it to put you at ease. Most likely irritation from foods going down. Some people drink oils like olive oil to coat the surface. perhaps Your ENT can recommend something.

BugHunter's picture
Posts: 152
Joined: Oct 2007

Best thing to remember is that your throat is healing from what amounts to internal 3rd degree burns. Time heals. But piece of mind is every bit as important during the healing process and that is part of your Oncologists job, call them to be sure. I am now 31 months post tx and it still hurts to yawn, still have to take small bites and chew really well, and most foods still have to have water added to get them down. I have adjusted to what I now refer to as my "new normal" in life.


Posts: 22
Joined: Sep 2009

I've been doing well in terms of pain. I never experienced pain per se, but rather an itchiness in my throat (that made me nauseous).

Eventually I realized that the itchiness was a form of pain, and that the pain meds, which were described as effective as a cough medicine, could control the itch, cough and nausea that resulted.

I'm still coming down off the meds, but I haven't noticeably been bothered by the itchiness till yesterday. I ate a piece of cinnamon toast, and after a bit, that sensation came back. A tickle, like something in my throat, but that I couldn't swallow.

Its hard to describe, but its almost like something in how I swallow changed, and I just don't have access to the back of my throat anymore. Water didn't help.

A quick Dilaudid took care of it, but it was the first real episode I've had in weeks, and it leads me to believe that its going to be an ongoing issue.

I was warned that breads and toast could be a problem, and I've always used bread or crackers when I had mucous in my throat from a cold causing a tickle/cough. In retrospect, since I have always been sensitive to it in the past, I suspect this will be an ongoing challenge.

I hadn't worried that there was anything "coming back", but I guess I'm still getting used to what I'm supposed to be worried about and what I'm not.


pmfennell's picture
Posts: 28
Joined: Jun 2009


I am 6 years post tx and still experience pain in my throat. I am on 5 mg Oxycontin 5 times a day and wear a 12.5mg Fentanyl patch that I change every 3 days. I live in the Northeast portion of the country and find that this is not the best environment for me. I head to FL every winter for 6 months because the warm humid weather is much better for me. I have a whole house humidifier that keeps my home at a steady 55 percent level, but I still have issues. My cancer was SCC stage IV a, at the base of tongue. I am also a mouth breather and I have most trouble at night and early morning. I also cut open vitamin E capsules and find this is a short term fix. But a good one. I was a teacher but had to give that up because of this and find the job loss worse than the pain. Try a teaspoon of honey as well. This is another short term fix. I find that the further out from the end of my tx, the more issues with pain and other oral issues I have. Good luck to you I wish you well.

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