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One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

9 Feb 2018 08:36

Hi everyone,

First of all I've tried to make this as short as possible and I know only a doctor can tell us for certain, but I really want some reassurance that it might not be cancer so I don't completely breakdown everday over the next two weeks. 

My husband has had issues with a painless lump in his throat since before we met (nearly six years ago). He said it gets better and worse sometimes, but never completely goes away. Twice it has become so large it effected his breathing and he went to the doctor, and both times he was prescribed some antibiotics that made things better but it would always come back. He was also told one tonsil was larger than the other, but that it wasn't worrying. 

Fast forward to now. He has had some issues since we've been together with the lump making him cough at lot beacuse it's irritating his throat (his words!), but in general it has been pushed to the back of my mind. However, a few months ago I noticed my husband was sort of wheezing when he breathed out (breathing in is fine, as is eating) and I have been begging him to go to the doctor about it. He was relutant at first becuase he siad it had been worse than this before, but he finally agreed and we went to the doctor yesterday. 

The doctor commented that, again, one tonsil was much larger than the other and he wasn't sure what it was. He didn't think it was anything to be worried about because of how long he had had it and he wasn't really in an 'at risk' group (he's in his early 40's, no family history and doesn't smoke or drink heavily), but he gave him an urgent referral to an ENT. I panicked when I heard that, but my husband said it wasn't because he was overly concernced and it was just so we wouldn't have to wait months to be seen. He should have a throat scan (? sorry, don't know the correct word!) within two weeks. 

I am so so scared. I have had awful issues with health anxiety in the past and would use Dr Google for everything (I know I shouldn't) - I'm pretty sure I ended up diagnosing myself and my husband with every type of cancer out there! It got really bad and I was barely sleeping so I completely banned myself from Googling anything, which made things a lot better. However, last night I couldn't help myself and every single post about one tonsil being englarged (without pain) said it was tonsil cancer.

I can usualy talk myself out of panicking, but at the moment my conversations are just going: 

"The doctor said it was almost certainly nothing" - "But then why give an urgernt referral" - "To save us waiting months to be seen, he was a great doctor" - "But one tonsil larger than the other without pain is always cancer, he was just being nice and trying to stop you worrying becuase he knows in two weeks he'll be diagnosed with cancer" - "Even if it is cancer it can be treated, remember all the stories online about people who got better" - "Well it's been over six years, it's clearly going to have spread everywhere by now" - ect...

I'm sorry for going on so much. I know only the doctors can tell us for certain what it is, but does it HAVE to be cancer? I can't find anything else other than cancer for his symptoms and I just can't stop worrying. Is there anything else this could be? If it's cancer we'll deal with it, but these next two weeks are going to destory me if I don't have a tiny ray of hope that it might be something less serious. 

Thanks for reading Sad 

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

9 Feb 2018 08:59 in response to SSH

Hi SSH. Welcome to the forum.

My, you are getting into a state. 

As you can see from my profile, I've been here a few years, and with respect you're making some classic mistakes that I've seen a few times - and which I made myself in the early days.  You know that Google isn't helpful, so STOP using it. You're also reading far too much into having an "urgent" referral.  In fact, 9 out of 10 urgent referrals turn out not to be cancer. Your doctor doesn't really think this is cancer, but is simply being cautious and asking the ENT to rule it out.  The REAL motive behind this is that the doctor doesn't want to end up looking a fool in the hightly unlikely event that the call is wrong. 

In fact, I went through an urgent ENT referral myself just before Xmas, and only got the all clear a week ago, so I know exactly what it's like. I was referred by my doctor for exactly the same reason. My doctor didn't think it was cancer, but she doesn't want to look a fool if she's called it wrong.  (Actually, my GP is most definitely not a fool - she's brilliant!)

If your hubby's ENT experience is like mine, then the consultant will look into his mouth, throat, etc, then put a small endoscope in his nose and use it to peek down his throat. The consultant ordered a neck/throat MRI, and then a panendoscopy and biopsy under general anaesthetic. Only when this was done, and the biopsy results came back did I get the all clear.

Until this is all done, then there really is no point worrying.  Stop using Google, try to break the cycle of bad thoughts going round in your head, stop trying to double guess everything, and just go with the flow of the tests. I do know all this is easier said that done: I was nervous much of the time, and the final wait was agonising, since the last appointment was delayed 90 minutes! 

We'll be here if you need to talk again. 

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

9 Feb 2018 09:02 in response to SSH

Dear SSH. Hello and welcome. I am going to keep my answer short because there are many well-experienced people here who can answer you in more detail than myself.  Not doctors, I don't think anyone on this forum has medical training but they are experienced in being sent for tests.  I just wanted to say that doctors requests tests so they can rule things out as well as confirm things in.  When they don't know the cause of something they rightly test so they can rule some things out.  You have learned the hard way not to google symptoms.  Apart from frightening yourself google definitions are so broad there are often the same symptoms for anything from a minor throat infection right through the spectrum to the dreaded cancer.,  So don't take any notice of that.  I will hand over to my collegues but just wanted to give you a short "welcome".

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

9 Feb 2018 09:07 in response to telemando

Hello telemando, you got there before me with your wisdom and experience.  SSH, you have now had it from the horse's mouth - that wasn't meant to be rude, telemando, but respectful.

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

9 Feb 2018 09:17 in response to Annieliz

Thanks for your reply and wlecome. Just having someone tell me I may be overreacting a little bit helps a lot!

I'm going to force myself to stay away from Google and accept the next two weeks aren't going to be a lot fun. 

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

9 Feb 2018 09:24 in response to telemando

Thanks for your reply. I'm going to force myself from Googling symptoms and accept the next few weeks aren't going to be great. People rarely post when things turn out to be okay (because they don't need to!) so I'm using that as motivation to stay away from Google. 

Thanks also for sharing your story. I'm so so happy things turned out okay for you. Just hearing what may happen over the next few weeks has helped to put my mind at ease. 

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

9 Feb 2018 09:32 in response to Annieliz

The horse's mouth? Nay nay! Grin

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

9 Feb 2018 22:14 in response to SSH
Hi SSH, 2013 I had my tonsillectomy at the age of 50 years old. It sounds like you're husband might have white stones in his tonsils. I too had one of my tonsils in large. For year back and forth to the GP was told I was too old to have my tonsils taken out. But I persist. Best thing I ever done. Don't give up keep going back too the doctor. Hope this helps. Marilyn

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

17 Sep 2018 23:49 in response to Marilyn777


Not sure this is still relevant to the original poster, I hope everything turned out allright, but I'm going to share my short stoy for other people searching ...

I've been consulted by ENT for an unrelated matter back in March and by chance they've picked up one of my tonsils was larger than the other. It was quite obvious when looking in the mirror as well, it was huge on the left side and the other side for comparison seemed as if it had been taken out; no other symptoms present.

At that point they've told me to give it another 3 months to see what happenes. You can imagine they've been the worse 3 months of my life; I've obsessed over google search results and forum threads about similar cases, with the number one indication being tonsil cancer. Then in Augurst I've seen ENT again and decided the safest is to have both my tonsils removed and checked, as there was no feasable way to exclude tumors (of any sorts); as they've explained it, biopsies can be inconclusive if they don't touch the tumor.

Surgery was scheduled for the end of August and my tonsils have both been removed successfully, was soar for about a week, but managed with painkillers (and as adivsed by the surgen forced myself eating to avoid bleeding and ease up on pain). Upon visual inspection it was obvious that the tonsils were of similar size but somehow the right side managed to hide itself out of sight. Two weeks later pathology results came back clear (chronic inflmation) and I've been grateful ever since.

Hopefully this will ease up any negative thoughts on other people going through this and reading this post.

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

18 Sep 2018 06:53 in response to ONO

Hi ONO. Welcome to the forum.

This was clearly a very worrying time for you, but it's good news that it was a false alam. 

Did you have an MRI or CT prior to surgery?

Re: One tonsil enlarged - definitely cancer??

19 Oct 2018 17:39 in response to ONO

Hi! I know I’m a little last to this post. I just wanted to say your post has given me a lot of reassurance as I have been dealing with my right tonsil being enlarged for 4 years now! My doctor has already diagnosed me with chronic sinusitis (had a CT scan to also help with the diagnosis), and even now I still have my doubts and keep looking it up and thinking I have cancer. It’s a never ending cycle and I just need to accept that my ENT knows way more than I do and that Google is not helping anything. So thank you for your post, I’m so glad I found it! Happy