What is Tonsil Cancer?
There are three types of tonsils in the throat: the nasopharyngeal tonsils known as adenoids that are located behind the nose, the palatine tonsils located on the sides of the throat, and the lingual tonsils that are located on the back of the tongue. Tonsil cancer most often involves the palatine tonsils, which are two oval shaped pads made of white blood cells located at the back and sides of the mouth, or the oropharynx. The tonsils are made of lymphoid tissue and are responsible for helping fight infection and defend your body against germs. Tonsil cancer is caused by an overgrowth of cells of the surface lining of the tonsils. Even if you have had your tonsils removed (tonsillectomy) you can still develop tonsil cancer if some tonsil tissue is left behind after the procedure. There are two main types of tonsil cancer: squamous cell carcinomas which makes up the vast majority of cases, and lymphomas. Because some people do not experience symptoms until much later on in the disease, tonsil cell cancer is sometimes diagnosed when it has spread to other areas in the mouth such as the tongue or lymph nodes in the neck. The following information on tonsil cancer concerns only the palatine tonsils.