How to Know If Your Persistent Sore Throat Could Be Something More Serious

Photo credit: Aleksander Rubtsov - Getty Images
Photo credit: Aleksander Rubtsov - Getty Images

From Women's Health

We're right in the middle of sick season. It's prime time to get struck by a viral or bacterial illness like tonsillitis, which can leave you feeling rotten and out of action for up to a week or two.

But if your sore throat is lingering, you may want to pay a little more attention to it.

New scientific research led by the University of Exeter and published in the British Journal of General Practice concludes that GPs seeing patients with persistent hoarse throats should consider whether it could be a symptom of something more serious, like laryngeal cancer.

The larynx is the part of the throat located at the top of the windpipe, and helps you to breathe and speak.

The study assessed patients diagnosed with cancer of the larynx alongside a number of control patients, and found that a key symptom was a consistently sore throat - but only when paired with other ailments. Such symptoms include shortness of breath, trouble swallowing and earache.

Speaking to the BBC, Cancer Research UK said the information shouldn't scare people, but should inform them about what to pay attention to. "A sore throat on its own wasn't linked to laryngeal cancer," a spokesperson reassured.

Professor Willie Hamilton, who co-authored the study, noted that its findings could be important because they indicate "the potential severity of some symptom combinations previously thought to be low risk."

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

And he's right. A sore throat or an earache on their own aren't things we'd necessarily panic about - and that should continue to be the case. But if the symptoms persist, and you note they occur in conjunction with one another, it's best to get yourself checked out just in case something more serious could be at plat.

The UK sees around 2,000 diagnoses of laryngeal cancer each year, however it's proven to be more common in men. The disease is also thought to have strong links to smoking and drinking alcohol.

Read more about laryngeal cancer and its symptoms over on Cancer Research's website.