Cancer of the oropharynx, also called oropharyngeal cancer, can occur at the area at the back of the mouth, including the back of the throat, the base of the tongue and the tonsils.
People typically first notice a problem because of a persistent sore throat, a cough, trouble swallowing or unexplained weight loss. There are also a number of other symptoms associated with this type of cancer that we have listed in this section. Remember that the symptoms you experience might also be caused by other medical conditions so it’s important for you to consult a physician to confirm a diagnosis.
It’s normal for you to wonder how you got oropharyngeal cancer. Although we still don’t have all the answers, we do know that there are risk factors that contribute to people developing this cancer, especially tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, diets low in fruits and vegetables and ongoing infrection of the oral cavity by HPV, the human papilloma virus. Remember that there is no single cause for developing this type of cancer.
Screening and Diagnosis
You may need to undergo a number of tests for the screening and diagnosis, which will help your team to assess the stage, or severity of the cancer. Your head and neck specialist will first perform a physical examination to look for signs and symptoms of cancer, and then may order one or more of the most commonly used tests such endoscopy, panendoscopy, and x-rays.
Learn about some of the other tests commonly used for head and neck cancers
Cancers of the hypopharynx are biologically aggressive and have more ability to spread than other types of head and neck cancer. Because most hypopharyngeal tumors grow in a silent fashion without presenting noticeable symptoms, they are often quite large by the time the patient is first seen.
Early and Late Stage Cancer of the Oropharynx
Preparing for Your Surgery
Follow-up care for oropharyngeal cancer is critical and you will need to see your physician on a regular basis. You may also need ongoing therapy for speaking and swallowing problems.
Many members of the multidisciplinary treatment team will work with you through this challenging process, and can offer continuing care and guidance about the services and resources that may be of assistance during your recovery or palliative care.