About the disease
Oropharyngeal cancer develops in the oral cavity, which includes the lips, mouth, tongue, palate, gums and floor of the mouth. In 90% of all cases of this disease, cancer first develops in the lining of the mouth. Sometimes, malignant cells start to grow in the throat. According to Cancer.Net, the 5-year survival rate for oropharyngeal cancer is approximately 63% and the 10-year survival rate is around 52%.
The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better your chances are for recovery. For instance, people who have been diagnosed at the first stage of this disease have an 83% chance of recovery, which is very high. Oropharyngeal cancer is believed to be mostly caused by tobacco and alcohol consumption. For instance, 85% of people diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer have been reported to be smokers. Chewing tobacco is especially dangerous in this case, as it irritates the tissue of the cheeks and gums. Oropharyngeal cancer can also be caused by frequent sun exposure, poor hygiene habits and a genetic predisposition. People with the HPV virus are especially at risk. Oropharyngeal cancer is most common in men over 45-50 years of age.
- Sores on the mouth or gums, which do not heal over time
- A lump on the neck or inside the mouth. Sometimes the lump can be felt in the throat or cheeks.
- Changes in the voice, such as permanent hoarseness
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Pain when eating or swallowing
- Weight loss
- A physical examination allows the doctor to see if there are strange lumps or sores in the patient’s throat or on the tongue.
- An X-ray of the mouth and neck can be used to look for a strange mass, which could be malignant.
- An endoscopy is the examination of the neck and throat with a small tube. This can be used to investigate any changes in tissue that could be related to cancer.
- A biopsy to remove a tissue sample may also be performed, so that cells may be examined under a microscope.
- Combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor and kill as many malignant cells as possible.
- Surgical treatment aims to remove the tumor and the surrounding tissue. Depending on the location and stage of the cancer, the surgeon may also need to remove the larynx, part of the tongue or the hard palate. Following this type of surgery, the patient will likely undergo reconstructive surgery, which will enable them to eat and speak again.