A feeling of a lump in the throat may develop after someone quits smoking. In many cases, this may go away on its own, but a person may need treatment depending on the underlying condition.

Smoking can be an addictive activity. When a person stops, their body can go into nicotine withdrawal. This is a common cause of several symptoms, including the feeling of a lump in the throat.

In rare cases, someone who quits smoking may notice a lump due to the development of cancer in the throat. They will need medical care to help treat the cancer if this is the cause of the throat lump.

This article reviews the potential causes of a lump in the throat after quitting smoking, diagnosis, treatment, and the benefits of quitting smoking.

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The feeling of a lump in the throat may occur after a person quits smoking. Possible causes include nicotine withdrawal and throat cancer.

Smoker’s flu

Smoker’s flu is a term that some people use to describe nicotine withdrawal. It refers to a set of symptoms that may resemble the flu or the common cold. Though less common than neurological symptoms, physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can include:

A person may also develop a sore throat, which may resemble the feeling of a lump in the throat.

Symptoms relating to withdrawal typically peak within the first 3 days after a person quits smoking. However, the duration and severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms vary between different people.

Common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

Throat cancer

Mouth and throat cancers are not common in the United States — they account for just under 3% of all new cancer cases.

However, experts associate cigarettes and smoking with an increased risk of several different cancers, including laryngeal cancer. According to a 2018 study, smoking is the most important risk factor for developing laryngeal cancer alongside alcohol consumption.

While stopping smoking can greatly decrease a person’s risk factor, it takes time before the risk goes down. A person can also develop cancer before stopping smoking and notice symptoms for the first time once they stop.

Experts estimate that human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of oropharyngeal cancer, which occurs in the throat, base of the tongue, tonsils, or roof of the mouth. Smoking may interact with HPV and lead to the development of the disease. However, further conclusive research is necessary for scientists to prove this.

Throat cancer can cause several different symptoms, but common symptoms include a sore throat and the feeling of a lump in the throat. While these symptoms may not have links to quitting smoking, they may occur around the time when someone stops.

A person may also notice:

People can speak with a healthcare professional if they are experiencing symptoms relating to throat cancer.

Cancer resources

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for cancer, visit our dedicated hub.

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A healthcare professional can recognize the signs and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. A person may want to speak with a doctor before quitting smoking. A doctor may be able to provide someone with support and may recommend products and strategies, such as nicotine replacement therapy, to help them quit smoking.

If a doctor suspects a person may have cancer, they will likely perform a complete physical exam and review their family and personal medical history.

Following a physical exam, they may recommend one or more tests to determine if the individual has cancer. They may include:

Healthcare professionals may recommend other diagnostic tests if they think the lump in a person’s throat has a different underlying cause.

Treatment will vary depending on the cause of the lump.

For nicotine withdrawal, a doctor may recommend nicotine replacement treatment. Nicotine replacement products may help increase a person’s success in quitting smoking. They come in several forms, including:

  • patches
  • gums
  • nasal sprays
  • lozenges
  • inhalers

In addition to helping a person quit smoking, they may also help manage withdrawal symptoms, including the feeling of a lump in the throat.

If throat cancer is the cause, treatment will vary based on several factors, such as a person’s age, overall health, size and placement of the tumor, and the stage of the cancer. Treatments typically include:

A person can speak with a doctor to fully consider all their treatment options for nicotine withdrawal and throat cancer.

When a person quits smoking, they can help improve their overall health in various ways.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that even within 1 year, a person may start to experience significant health benefits of quitting smoking, such as a reduced risk of a heart attack.

Other benefits of quitting smoking include:

  • improved overall health and quality of life
  • reduced risk of secondhand smoke to friends, family, coworkers, and others
  • reduced risk of certain cancers and chronic diseases
  • increased life expectancy by up to 10 years
  • health benefits for pregnant people and their babies

The sooner someone quits smoking, the sooner they can start seeing the improvements to their overall health, outlook, and risk factors for several conditions. Therefore, individuals need to consider quitting smoking at any age.

A person may experience the feeling of a lump in their throat following the cessation of smoking. It is a potential physical symptom of nicotine withdrawal.

Another possible cause is the presence of throat cancer. While stopping smoking will not cause throat cancer, a person may develop it while smoking and not notice the symptoms until they have stopped smoking or shortly after.

Diagnosis and treatment will vary according to what the underlying cause is. Nicotine withdrawal often improves with time or when a person uses nicotine replacement products, while a doctor may treat cancer with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.

A person can consult a healthcare professional if they have concerns about a lump in their throat after quitting smoking.