Oropharyngeal Cancer

Know More About Oropharyngeal Cancer

As the name suggests, the oropharynx is the middle part of the throat. The tumor cells are formed in this part of the throat. The oropharynx consists of the base of tongue, soft palate, and the tonsils. The oropharynx is responsible for the formation of saliva and keeping the mouth and throat moist to facilitate the ease of swallowing as well as digestion.


  • It is somewhat clear that the cells present in the oropharynx undergo multiplication uncontrollably and rapidly. The DNA in the healthy cells undergoes changes and guides it to replicate. It causes formation of lumps and tumors.
  • If an individual has a history of smoking or is actively involved in alcohol consumption, the chances of getting hit with oropharyngeal cancer are increased.
  • Any history of head or neck cancer and being subject to radiation therapy also increases the risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer.
  • A HPV infection (especially HPV type 16) increases the chances of developing oropharyngeal cancer.

Types of Oropharyngeal Cancer

The oropharyngeal cancer can either be HPV infection related or non-HPV associated.

HPV infection related

The HPV associated cancer is generally the squamous cell carcinoma that begins in the flat and thin squamous cells. People infected with HPV 16 are at a higher risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer.


Non-HPV related

For non-HPV related cancer, the risk factors include alcohol consumption,  smoking tobacco, betel quid chewing, asbestos exposure, marijuana smoking,  diet low in vegetables and fruits, and certain mutations like CDKN2A (p16) and P53

Signs and Symptoms

  • Physical ExaminationThe physical examination involves the doctor checking neck and throat for possible lumps, swelling, or other abnormalities if any. There could be swollen lymph nodes. Also, the medical and family history are taken to find out the cause of the issue and plan a good treatment pathway.
  • Neurological testsSeveral neurological tests can be performed to look for the functioning of the spinal cord, brain, and the surrounding nerves. This is done to know about the cognitive functions like coordination, ability to move, reflexes, and an overall mental status.
  • Imaging TechniquesThe PET-CT scan is performed to get combinet images from positron emission tomography and computed tomography. The combined scans lead to receiving more clear pictures of the internal functioning of body organs.During a CT scan, a dye is injected into the body through a vein and pictures formed are connected to the X-ray machine to produce images.The PET scanner works by using some amount of radioactive glucose that is injected into the body through the vein. The malignant tumor cells use more sugar than the normal cells so they appear more actively and the PET scanner captures them.A MRI involves use of radio waves, magnet, and a computer to get detailed pictures of the affected area and surrounding tissues.
  • BiopsyBiopsy involves taking a sample of the cells or tissues to be checked for tumors under a microscope in the laboratory.
  • Endoscopy In the case of endoscopy, an endoscope is inserted through the nose, mouth, or through an incision in the skin. Also, the scope has a lens at the tip to view the organs.
  • LaryngoscopyA laryngoscope is used to look inside the throat with a light and lens at its tip. It is a thin and tube-like structure used to analyse the functioning of the body organs as well as collect the sample for testing.


With the advancements in technology, the medical field has also progressed and developed new techniques and machines for diagnosis and treatment of diseases.


Generally, the surgery is performed to remove cancer from the affected area. The tumor cells are removed completely along with some of the healthy cells to avoid the chances of recurrence.


Chemotherapy drugs can be provided through a vein so that they travel throughout the body. On the other hand, the drugs can be administered so that they are delivered directly to the cancer cells. The therapy helps to provide relief to the body and leads to a reduction in signs and symptoms.


Immunotherapy is done to help boost the immune system of the human body so that it can fight the abnormal growth of cells. It can be intravesical where a bacteria Calmette Guerin generates an immune reaction that helps reach the potential fighting cells towards the bladder. Intravenous immunotherapy is used for advanced or recurring bladder cancers.

Radiation Therapy

The use of strong energy-bearing beams like protons and X-Rays is done to target and destroy the cancer cells. The appliance used is moved around the body and guided to specific points.

There could be intensity-modulated radiation therapy where the radiation beams are aimed from different angles and through different intensity towards cancer cells.