Tonsil cancer: symptoms of disease explained as Oasis guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ diagnosed

Cancer of the tonsil is a type of head and neck cancer

Former Oasis guitarist Paul Arthurs, also known as Bonehead, has announced he has been diagnosed with tonsil cancer.

The musician told fans on Twitter he was going to be "taking a break for a while" and will not appear with Liam Gallagher at gigs due to take place this summer.

But what is tonsil cancer and what are the symptoms?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is tonsil cancer?

Cancer of the tonsil is a type of head and neck cancer. The tonsils are two glands at the back of your throat and they help reduce infection by stopping harmful germs from coming through the mouth and nose.

Most tonsil cancers are a type called squamous cell carcinoma, but a small number of tonsil cancers are lymphomas.

What are the symptoms of tonsil cancer?

Symptoms can include:

  • a sore throat
  • ear pain
  • a painless lump in your neck
  • difficulty swallowing

What can cause tonsil cancer?

The main risk factors for developing this type of cancer are:

  • smoking
  • regularly drinking a lot of alcohol
  • infection with a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV)

The Cancer Research Website says that if you smoke and drink a lot together “you increase your risk even further.”

When to see a GP

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of tonsil cancer and have any concerns, you should see a GP.

Your doctor will examine you and they might look at the back of your throat using a small mirror that they put into your mouth. They will also check for swollen lymph nodes in your neck.

The Cancer Research website explains that the only way to confirm a diagnosis of cancer is to take a small amount of tissue (biopsy) from the abnormal area, and a specialist doctor will then examine it under a microscope.

They also test your cancer cells to check for HPV infection.

You usually have one or more of the following tests:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • PET-CT scan
  • ultrasound of the lymph nodes in your neck

What is the treatment for tonsil cancer?

Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma tonsil cancer could include:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • chemotherapy with radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy)
  • targeted and immunotherapy drugs