When the news broke on Oct. 6 that Eddie Van Halen, virtuoso guitarist and cofounder of the rock band Van Halen, had lost battle with throat cancer, there was an immediate outpouring of condolences and adoration from fellow musicians and fans alike. Van Halen had been battling cancer for a decade and after being in and out of the hospital for the past year, his health took a rapid decline in the days leading up to his death on Tuesday, his family confirmed. He was 65.
While the cancer had spread to nearly all of his organs by the time of his death, Van Halen was originally diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2000, which he had surgically removed, but learned shortly after that cancer had developed in his throat. With the news of his death, here are the most common throat cancer symptoms you need to know. And for more red flags that you should be on the lookout for, check out Warning Signs of Head and Neck Cancer You Need to Know.
Changes in your voice
With laryngeal cancer, the disease forms on the vocal cords, which often causes hoarseness or other changes in your voice, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says. One positive aspect of this symptom is that it can help detect the cancer in its early stages, which makes it easier to treat. According to the ACS: "People who have voice changes (like hoarseness) that do not improve within [two] weeks should see their health care provider right away." And for more on another famous figure who is currently fighting his own battle with a deadly disease, check out 4 Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer Alex Trebek Wished He'd Known Sooner.
Pain or difficulty swallowing
While throat cancer symptoms can vary depending on where exactly the tumor develops, pain or difficulty swallowing is known to be a common symptom across the board. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer, you may experience "pain or a burning sensation when chewing and swallowing food" or "feel like food is sticking in your throat."
Persistent coughing or sore throat
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Of course, having a cough and/or sore throat isn't a surefire sign you have throat cancer—seeing as these symptoms can be signs of so many different health issues, including COVID-19. But that makes them all the more important to address with your doctor. This is especially true if either doesn't subside after a few days. And for more on stars who have gone through serious health struggles, check out Celebrities Who Battled Cancer and Won.
A lump in your throat or neck
If you notice a lump in your throat or neck, then it is critical you seek medical care immediately. According to the Mayo Clinic, this could mean the cancer has gone undetected for a dangerous amount of time, as throat cancers "are sometimes not found until they have spread to the lymph nodes and the person notices a growing mass in the neck."
Any time you experience sudden or unexpected weight loss, there's likely something that isn't right with your health. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer: "Throat cancer can make it painful to eat and difficult to swallow, which can cause weight loss." And for more helpful health content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.