What Is Oropharyngeal Cancer?

Oropharyngeal cancer is a specific type of head and neck cancer that develops in the part of the throat that extends from the back of the nasal cavity to the top section of the esophagus. Because this condition is relatively uncommon, most patients choose to consult with an oncologist who has specific experience in otolaryngology.

Where does oropharyngeal cancer develop?

The oropharynx consists of several structures, including the:

  • Base of the tongue
  • Tonsils
  • Soft palate (soft tissues at the back of the mouth)
  • Pharynx (part of the throat located behind the mouth)

Tumors that develop in these tissues can sometimes spread to other parts of the oral cavity, such as the lips, hard palate (roof of the mouth) or front sections of the tongue.

What is the prognosis for oropharyngeal cancer?

Outcomes for oropharyngeal cancer are often quite positive – especially when the condition is diagnosed early. Surgeons can often remove these tumors completely, although radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be provided afterward to help ensure that all of the cancerous cells are destroyed.

Even though surgery is often successful, it may involve the removal of several important soft tissues. This can potentially impact how a person breathes, eats and talks, as well as his or her appearance. As a result, it’s especially important to take quality of life into consideration when developing a treatment plan. Reconstructive surgery, speech therapy, nutritional counseling and other supportive care services can be especially beneficial for individuals with oropharyngeal cancer.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, patients can access a comprehensive range of services in one convenient location. They can also consult with several experienced surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and supportive care providers, all of whom work together as a collaborative team.

To request an appointment with a specialist in our Head and Neck Cancer Program, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. No referral is required.