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Oropharyngeal Cancer

Cancer of the oropharynx refers to tumors arising from the mucosal lining of the mid-pharynx (throat). The pharynx is the tube that extends from the back of the nose to the opening of the esophagus. Food and air pass through the pharynx on the way to the windpipe and esophagus, respectively. The oropharynx, or mid-throat area, includes the back of the mouth, base of the tongue and tonsils.

Signs and symptoms

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A lump in the back of the mouth or throat
  • Change in the voice
  • Pain in the ear

Stages of oropharynx cancer

  • Stage I is the stage where the cancer has not spread and is no more than two centimeters diameter.
  • Stage II occurs when the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes and is between two and four centimeters in diameter.
  • Stage III is the stage where the cancer is either more than four centimeters or has spread to only one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer.
  • Stage IV occurs when the cancer may be any size; has spread to other tissues or lymph nodes on either side of the neck; or has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Recurrent cancer occurs when the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated.

Treatment options

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy