Oropharyngeal cancers are any malignant growth found in oropharynx, the part of the mouth that connects to the throat. The most common type of oropharyngeal cancer is squamous cell cancer. Other types include melanomas and lymphomas. These cancers are highly treatable if caught early, so it is important to be evaluated immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Lumps in the mouth or neck
- Trouble swallowing
- Change in voice
- Bleeding sores in the mouth
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
No one knows why a malignant or cancerous growth begins to grow. However, risk factors for oropharyngeal cancer may include:
- Exposure to cigarette smoke
- A history of smoking
- A history of alcohol abuse
To make a complete and accurate diagnosis, your doctor will perform the following:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Complete exam on your mouth, nose, head, and face to determine the type and nature of the growth
- Biopsy to examine the tumor tissue and determine the kind of cancer, how aggressive it is, and the best way to treat it
- Diagnostic, including imaging studies, lab tests, and detailed physical examinations, including:
- Panendoscopy includes direct laryngoscopy, (look at voice box), esophagoscopy, (esophagus), and bronchoscopy (bronchial tubes and lungs) to stage the tumor and look for additional tumors within these areas.
- Endoscopy is used by your doctor to view the upper airways and inside the nostrils, the throat, and vocal cords. This is normally done by inserting a scope with a light and camera down the nose and throat.
- CT scan
- PET scan
Treatment for oropharyngeal cancer depends on when and where the cancer is found, as well as the type and grade of the tumor, but usually includes:
- Surgery: Your doctor may recommend surgery, but this is usually after chemotherapy and radiation.
After your surgery and completing chemotherapy and/or radiation, your doctor will want to monitor you closely to make sure the cancer has not reoccurred. The visits may be as frequently as once a month for the first year following treatment. These visits will typically consist of a physical examination, flexible endoscopy, a discussion of how you are feeling, and any diagnostic tests needed to determine your health.