Oropharyngeal cancer

What is oropharyngeal cancer?
Oropharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that affects the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat behind the mouth. The oropharynx is the area that includes the back of the tongue and the tonsils.

What causes oropharyngeal cancer?
It’s not clear what exactly causes oropharyngeal cancer but several factors have been identified that increase the risk of developing it:
• Smoking tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and shisha (water pipe). Heavy smokers are most at risk
• Heavy and prolonged use of alcohol -heavy drinkers are more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than non-drinkers
• Diet low in fruits and vegetables
• Being infected by human papillomavirus (HPV)

Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that a person will definitely get oropharyngeal cancer but can increase their chances of developing it.

What are the symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer?
• Cough that lasts several weeks
• Sore throat
• Change in your voice
• Lump in the mouth, neck or throat
• Unexplainable weight loss
• Ear pain
• Trouble swallowing

How is oropharyngeal cancer diagnosed?
In order to accurately diagnose and stage oropharyngeal cancer, your physician may order the following tests:
• CBC (complete blood count) test
• MRI scan
• PET scan
• CT scan
• Fiber-optic  endoscopy for upper airway
• Biopsy
• Chest x-ray to detect any spread of the tumor to the lungs

How is oropharyngeal cancer treated at KHCC?
The treating physician will present the case to the MDC panel who will determine the right treatment for the patient depending on how much the cancer has spread throughout the body.

At KHCC, the treatment plan for oropharyngeal cancer depends on many factors, such as the patient’s age, and the stage of the disease, but typically includes varying degrees of surgery, radiotherapy and some chemotherapy.

Primary voice restoration: In some treatment procedures for head and neck cancers, patients will experience a temporary loss of their voice, except for total laryngectomy where most lose their voice permanently. However the good news is the Head and Neck physicians at KHCC are the best in the region at performing a procedure known as Primary Voice Restoration and up to 90% of our patients recover their voice successfully.

At KHCC, oropharyngeal cancer patients receive top quality care through a multidisciplinary team of head and neck cancer specialists that is entirely devoted to diagnosing and treating cancers of the head and neck.

Supportive Care
The Head and Neck multidisciplinary clinic works in close cooperation with other departments at KHCC so that oropharyngeal cancer patients receive the most comprehensive care possible. Supportive care services at KHCC include:
Speech and language therapy
Dental evaluation and care