Oropharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that develops in the base of the tongue, soft palate, tonsils or back wall of the throat – a group of soft tissues that are known collectively as the oropharynx. Sometimes, oropharyngeal tumors are accompanied by other tumors in the esophagus, voice box, wind pipe or oral cavity.
What kind of oncologists treat oropharyngeal cancer?
People with oropharyngeal cancer usually work with several medical professionals throughout the treatment process. A typical treatment team may include:
- An otolaryngologist (a physician who specializes in ear, nose and throat disorders)
- A head and neck surgeon
- A medical oncologist (an oncologist who specializes in chemotherapy)
- A radiation oncologist
- A prosthodontist (a dentist who specializes in reconstructive procedures)
Supportive care providers can also play an important role in the treatment process. For instance, a patient might consult with a dietitian, a social worker or a speech therapist to improve their quality of life.
Oropharyngeal cancer treatment options
If a tumor can be surgically removed, there may be several potential options, including a traditional or robotic tumor resection, maxillectomy or laryngectomy, depending on how large the tumor is and how far it has spread. Sometimes, it’s possible to remove an oropharyngeal tumor through the mouth, eliminating the need for a surgical incision. Other times, a more traditional approach is necessary to access a harder-to-reach tumor.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapies are often recommended for oropharyngeal tumor treatment as well. Chemotherapy medications can destroy rapidly dividing cells, while radiation therapy can shrink tumors and targeted therapies can specifically seek out cancerous cells, leaving healthy cells unaffected. The specific options recommended will depend on the type, cellular makeup and stage of a tumor.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, patients can access an extensive range of oropharyngeal cancer treatments, including the latest options that are only available through clinical trials. Our patients can also consult with some of the nation’s top head and neck cancer treatment specialists and supportive care providers in the same location. No referral is required to make an appointment.