Benign throat tumors can present with hoarseness of the voice and a feeling of having a foreign object in the throat. Since these can also be symptoms of throat cancer, it is important to seek medical attention.

Throat tumors are growths that develop around the throat, or larynx. Another name for a throat tumor is a laryngeal tumor.

Some laryngeal tumors are cancerous. This means that genetic changes lead to atypical growth patterns in the cells of the larynx. However, not all laryngeal tumors are cancerous — those that are not cancerous are benign throat tumors. Examples include laryngeal papilloma, lipoma, and chondroma.

This article compares the symptoms of benign and cancerous throat tumors. It discusses when to consult a doctor and details the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of benign throat tumors.

Female drinking from a mug outsideShare on Pinterest
Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Early symptoms of a benign throat tumor include:

  • hoarseness of voice
  • a sensation of a foreign object within the throat
  • a sensation of obstruction when drinking or eating

A 2019 study states that benign throat tumors can also cause coughing, throat pain, and breathing difficulties.

As a 2022 review explains, cancerous throat tumors have a range of symptoms. These include the following signs of throat cancer:

  • hoarseness of voice
  • pain when swallowing
  • ear pain
  • firm lumps in the neck
  • weight loss
  • swallowing difficulties
  • breathing difficulties
  • persistent cough
  • coughing up blood

There is an overlap in the symptoms of a benign throat tumor and throat cancer. For this reason, anyone with symptoms of either should contact a doctor urgently. As the above 2022 review explains, throat cancer can be highly curable with early treatment.

People at higher risk of developing throat cancer should be especially vigilant of early signs of throat tumors.

The main risk factor for throat cancer is current or previous smoking. Other risk factors include older age, exposure to certain pollutants, and possibly alcohol consumption.

Benign throat tumors can develop for several reasons. According to the above 2019 study, these include:

  • overuse or misuse of voice, for example, excessive shouting or coughing
  • chronic infections of the upper airways
  • smoking
  • allergies
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease

According to a 2019 study, doctors recommend a videolaryngostroboscopy (VLS) for all individuals with hoarseness of voice. VLS uses a camera-mounted tube and special lighting to provide images of the larynx. Doctors can also use laryngoscopy to acquire these images.

If either technique shows a lesion in the throat, doctors will typically perform a biopsy. This involves removing a tissue sample of the lesion before testing it in the laboratory. These laboratory tests can determine whether the lesion is cancerous or benign. They may also help the doctor determine its cause.

Treatment for benign throat tumors can sometimes vary. This is because different they require different forms of treatment. However, surgery is a common option for several benign throat tumors.

For instance, benign nonepithelial solid laryngeal tumors are benign throat tumors that grow underneath the mucus-producing layers of the throat. Research suggests that most of these tumors require surgical removal. However, surgery is also a common treatment for vocal cord lesions.

According to a 2019 paper, surgeons can sometimes use lasers to remove benign throat tumors surgically. This modern technique may improve the outlook for people with such tumors. Additionally, voice therapy can help individuals adapt to benign throat tumors or the longer-term effects of surgical removal.

Here, we discuss some common questions about benign throat tumors.

What percent of throat tumors are benign?

Scientists are unsure about the exact percentage of benign throat tumors. However, research suggests that these are rare in comparison with cancerous throat tumors.

What are the first signs of laryngeal cancer?

Research suggests that different kinds of laryngeal cancer have different common first signs. While a hoarse voice is a common first sign of glottic cancer, pain when swallowing is a common first sign of supraglottic cancer. The difference between glottic and supraglottic laryngeal cancer is where they appear in the vocal cords.

Benign laryngeal tumors are noncancerous growths that develop in the throat. They can arise for a variety of reasons, including smoking, chronic infections, or overusing or misusing the voice. Despite not being cancerous, these growths can present like them.

Both throat cancer and benign throat tumors have several symptoms in common. These include hoarseness of voice, throat pain, and breathing difficulties. Other symptoms of benign throat tumors include the sensation of a foreign object within the throat and coughing.

Anyone with symptoms of benign throat tumors should seek medical advice. Treatment for this condition often involves surgery and can also involve voice therapy.