What is oropharyngeal cancer?
Oropharyngeal cancer affects the middle section of the throat, the oropharynx. It falls under the larger category of head and neck cancers. The majority of cases are squamous cell carcinomas.
Around 53,000 people are diagnosed with this cancer each year, and it is 2x more likely to impact males than females. People are typically diagnosed in their 60’s.
What are the symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer?
- A persistent sore throat
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain and difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- A change in voice
- Trouble opening the mouth or moving the tongue
- A lump in the back of one’s throat, mouth, or neck
- A white patch or lining on the tongue that does not go away
- Coughing up blood
What causes oropharyngeal cancer?
Medical professionals know that in many cases, the HPV virus results in oropharyngeal cancer as it interferes with the genes that control cell growth. In other cases, they have connected tobacco and alcohol use with the cancer. For others, they do not know the cause.
There are a number of risk factors, including a history of smoking, being infected with HPV, a history of head and neck cancer, a history of radiation to the head and neck, and heavy alcohol use.
How is oropharyngeal cancer diagnosed?
Doctors will first ask for patient and medical history, followed by a physical exam. If there is any abnormal tissue in the throat or mouth, they will take a sample for a biopsy. Imaging tests may also be ordered to see the extent of the growth.
What are the treatments for oropharyngeal cancer?
Treatment can consist of one or a combination of the following therapies: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy. Clinical trials are also an option.