Q. On what factors should tonsillitis be evaluated for cancer?

Answered by
Dr. Shyam Kalyan. N
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan
This is a premium question & answer published on Feb 05, 2021

Hi doctor,

Based on the attached picture, should I be concerned about my tonsil? Should I get it evaluated for cancer?



Welcome to

In the picture you sent(attachment removed to protect patient identity), the right looks quite big compared to the left. The left does not even appear to be there. Now whether you need to get it evaluated for cancer will depend on certain factors.

1. Your age - as I see, you are 32 years, and so cancer is less likely.

2. Smoking, chewing tobacco - chances are that you may be doing either of these, but it could be an issue if you have been doing it for many years.

3. Lymphoma and other cancers - possible at your age.

4. Symptoms - foremost importantly, what symptoms do you have due to the tonsil?

If an evaluation has to be done, it is usually tonsillectomy surgery, and then we send the tonsil for a pathological examination. This is done under general anesthesia. If you are without any symptoms, then I suggest you to reconsider the thought of getting an evaluation for cancer by removing the tonsils.

However, getting a blood evaluation done will help.

Do revert back if you need any support.


Thank you for the swift response Doctor.

To answer to few of your questions, I am a smoker. I have slight discomfort in the right ear occasionally. The tonsil has been as such for about a year or longer. Would it have gotten worse over that amount of time if it was something sinister? You mentioned blood work would be helpful. I recently went through a pregnancy and had full blood work done. All seemed well. Would not that have detected cancer? I believe that only certain cancers show up in blood work.



Welcome back to

Yes, it would have gotten worse over a year, if it were sinister. The blood work would have picked up the sort of cancer that we suspect clinically when someone of your age has a unilateral big tonsil without any symptoms. But for confirmation, a biopsy is always needed. But in the case of tonsils, biopsy means the surgical removal of the tonsil.

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