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Oropharyngeal Cancer: Facing Difficulties in Swallowing?

Cancer of the oropharynx, or middle region of the throat, is known as oropharyngeal cancer (pharynx).

A persistent painful throat, a lump in the throat, mouth, or neck, coughing up blood, a white patch in the mouth, and other symptoms are among the signs and symptoms.

Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted medication therapy, and immunotherapy are some of the options for treatment.

What is Oropharyngeal Cancer?

Oropharyngeal cancer is a form of head and neck cancer that develops in the area of your throat known as the oropharynx.

Squamous cell carcinomas, which arise from the flat surface cells lining your mouth and neck, account for more than 90% of oropharyngeal malignancies.

What is the Oropharynx?

Just beyond your mouth lies your oropharynx, which is the middle region of your throat (pharynx).

The back section of your tongue (base of tongue), tonsils, soft palate (back part of the roof of your mouth), and the sides and walls of your throat make up your oropharynx.

Your oropharynx produces saliva, keeps your mouth and throat wet, and begins to aid in the digestion of food.

How common is Oropharynx Cancer?

Oropharyngeal cancer affects roughly 53,000 people in the United States each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Men are twice as likely as women to have this malignancy. It affects both African Americans and Caucasians in equal quantities. At the time of diagnosis, the average patient is 62 years old.

Oropharyngeal cancer affects about a quarter of people under the age of 55. In youngsters, this cancer is uncommon.

Types of Oropharyngeal Cancer

Squamous cell carcinomas are the most common type of oropharyngeal cancer, which affects your squamous cells, which are thin flat cells present in the lining of most of your organs.

Lymphoma, or cancer of lymphatic cells, can also develop near the base of the tongue and tonsils, which are made up of lymph tissue, though it is uncommon.

What factors increase risk of oropharyngeal cancer?

Oropharyngeal Cancer

What causes oropharyngeal cancer?

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and expansion of aberrant cells. Changes in our DNA — the “building blocks” of who we are – lead abnormal cells to form. Cancer can be caused by a variety of factors.

Tobacco and alcohol usage have been demonstrated to harm the cells lining your mouth and throat in the event of oropharyngeal cancer.

The virus that causes HPV infection produces proteins that disrupt the genes that usually control cell growth. Cancer can result from uncontrolled cell growth.

HPV infection is currently the most common cause of oropharyngeal cancer, and it is on the rise. There is no known cause for some cases of oropharyngeal carcinoma.

Symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer?


How is oropharyngeal cancer diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will begin by taking your medical history, inquiring about your smoking history (if you use tobacco products), reviewing current and previous illnesses and treatments, and asking about your symptoms.

Your provider will then check your mouth, throat, and neck, looking for abnormal spots in your mouth and throat and feeling your neck for masses, utilizing a mirror, lighting, and/or a fiberoptic scope.

A biopsy will be conducted if any abnormal tissue is discovered to look for cancer cells and the presence of HPV infection. A PET, CT scan, or MRI of the area around your throat may be ordered. These tests provide more information about your throat and any masses discovered.

Stages of oropharyngeal cancer

The process of evaluating if cancer is present and, if so, how far it has gone is known as staging. It aids in the development of your treatment plan by your healthcare team.

Oropharyngeal carcinoma has four stages, ranging from Stage I (best prognosis) to Stage IV (worst prognosis) (worst prognosis).

The American Joint Committee on Cancer’s cancer staging system is complicated, including particular information based on the tumor’s size, metastasis to neighboring lymph nodes, and spread to distant organs, as well as whether or not the cancer is linked to the HPV virus.

Make sure to ask your doctor to explain your stage to you in a way you can understand.

How is oropharyngeal cancer treated?

Your treatment approach is determined by the stage of cancer, the location of the oropharyngeal cancer, your age, and your overall health. The goal is to treat cancer cells while preserving as much of your capacity to speak and swallow as feasible.

Surgery (typically transoral robotic-assisted surgery), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted medication therapy, and immunotherapy are examples of treatments that can be used alone or in combination.

For early-stage cancer that hasn’t spread, surgery and/or radiation therapy are frequently done initially.

Oropharyngeal Cancer: Facing Difficulties in Swallowing? - 1

Targeted medication therapies are man-made replicas of a monoclonal antibody, a protein found in your immune system. These medications work by inhibiting a protein required for cancer cells to proliferate, develop, and disseminate. Cetuximab (Erbitux®) is a widely utilized target medication for oropharyngeal cancer treatment. It can be used alone, in conjunction with radiation therapy, or in combination with other types of chemotherapy medications.

Immunotherapy is a class of medications that aid your body’s immune system in locating and eliminating cancer cells. Cancer cells are clever, and they want to blend in with other cells so that they aren’t recognized and killed by your immune system. Immunotherapies work by turning on or off specific proteins in your immune system, allowing it to recognize cancer cells and increase the body’s attack reaction against them.  Immunotherapy is employed as a first-line treatment option

Enrolling in a clinical trial is a last resort for treating oropharyngeal cancer when no other choices are available. To be accepted into a clinical trial, certain eligibility requirements must be met. 

Clinical studies are at various stages of development in preparation for FDA approval; some drugs may be found to be safe and effective, while others will not. You and your healthcare team will talk about whether or not joining a clinical study is a viable option.

Your healthcare team will collaborate with you to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your cancer and includes some of the therapies listed above. Never be afraid to inquire about any aspect of your treatment plan with your team.

What is transoral robotic surgery?

Transoral robotic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that uses your mouth to remove difficult-to-reach oropharyngeal malignancies. Your surgeon performs robotic surgery while sat at a console unit and you are on a nearby operating table.

Hand and foot controls are used by your surgeon to place a 3D, high-definition camera and precisely direct surgical instruments attached to robotic arms. Traditional surgery requires a bigger neck incision and lower jaw splitting, which is avoided with robotic surgery.

Shorter hospital stays, faster recovery, less injury to surrounding tissues and swallowing muscles, avoidance of a tracheostomy breathing tube, and less long-term speech and swallowing problems are all advantages of transoral robotic surgery.

Prevention To Developement of Oropharyngeal Cancer

prevention to the development of Oropharyngeal Cancer

What is the prognosis (chance of recovery) for people with oropharyngeal cancers?

The prognosis for persons with oropharyngeal cancer is determined by their age and overall health, the tumor’s HPV status, smoking history, and disease stage. When compared to cancers that are not associated with HPV, HPV-related malignancies have a significantly higher cure rate.

People with oral cancer or oropharyngeal cancer should have follow-up exams for the rest of their lives since cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Furthermore, risk factors such as smoking and drinking must be avoided because they raise the incidence of second malignancies, or recurrent cancer.


The five-year relative survival rate is 70%, according to the American Cancer Society. This means that if you have cancer, you have a 70% chance of living for at least five years after being diagnosed compared to persons who don’t. Remember that this figure does not account for your age, general health, treatment response, or HPV 16 status.

If your cancer stage changes, the survival rate does not apply. Remember that the survival rates are based on data from five years ago, and that novel therapies and management measures are being developed all the time.

People May Ask 3

Q- Is it possible to cure oropharyngeal cancer?

A- Oral and oropharyngeal cancers are frequently curable, especially if discovered early on. Although the major goal of treatment is to cure the disease, it is equally critical to preserve the function of adjacent nerves, organs, and tissues.

Q- What is the prognosis for oropharyngeal cancer patients?

A- Oral and oropharyngeal cancer survival rates vary greatly based on the disease’s original site and severity. The overall 5-year survival rate for persons with oral or oropharyngeal cancer in the United States is 67 percent. Black individuals have a 51% 5-year survival rate, while White people have a 69 percent 5-year survival rate.

Q- Is oropharyngeal cancer a dangerous cancer?

A- While the majority of HPV-related oropharyngeal tumors have a favorable prognosis, there is a subgroup that is more aggressive. This preliminary investigation uncovers pathologic and radiologic features that could aid in the prediction of this behavior.

Q- Is oropharyngeal cancer a slow-growing type of cancer?

 A- Verrucous carcinoma is a rare squamous cell cancer that mostly affects the mouth and cheeks. It’s a low-grade cancer (one that grows slowly) that rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Q- What is the prevalence of throat cancer according to age?

A- Most patients diagnosed with these tumors are 63 years old, although they can strike anyone at any age. Patients under the age of 55 account for just over 20% (1 in 5) of all cases.


The opinions presented in this article should not be regarded as a replacement for medical advice. For more information, please contact your treating physician.

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