June 22, 2023
According to the American Cancer Society, oropharyngeal cancer is rare, and it accounts for about 3% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States. This is a type of cancer that affects the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate, and the walls of the pharynx.
In this blog post, we will share the causes, risk factors, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventative steps to understand this condition better. Read on to learn more.
Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), particularly HPV16, are associated with this cancer.
Excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use, particularly smoking, can significantly increase the risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer.
This type of cancer is more common in older adults, with most cases diagnosed in seniors above 62 years old.
Family history and inherited genetic mutations can increase the risk.
Chronic irritation and inflammation of the mouth and throat caused by poor oral hygiene can increase the risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer.
Having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that someone will develop oropharyngeal cancer. In case of any concerns about the risk for oropharyngeal cancer, individuals should talk to their doctor and follow precautionary measures as recommended.
Oropharyngeal cancer symptoms may vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. Some common signs and symptoms are as follows:
Although less common, the following symptoms may also indicate oropharyngeal cancer:
Common issues such as the cold or flu may also cause similar symptoms. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a primary care physician for proper diagnosis.
Diagnosis of this cancer typically involves a physical examination, a thorough review of medical history, and a range of tests depending on individual conditions. The doctor may perform a physical exam of the throat and neck with a flexible tube with a camera called an endoscope. They may also perform a biopsy or recommend imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans to determine the extent of the cancer.
Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments depending on individual medical history. Contact a cancer treatment center for personalized treatment plan for oropharyngeal cancer.
Supportive care is an integral part of the treatment plan for oropharyngeal cancer. It may involve working with a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan, speech and language therapy to improve communication, and psychological support to cope with the emotional impact of cancer. Also, routine follow-up visits with the oncologist are crucial to monitor the effects of the treatment and detect any signs of recurrence.
While there are no known ways to completely prevent oropharyngeal cancer, individuals can take the following steps to lower their risk.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of oropharyngeal cancer. Therefore, reducing the number of sexual partners and practicing safe sex using a latex or polyurethane condom can significantly lower the risk of getting HPV.
The HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls starting at age 11 or 12. The vaccine protects against the strains of HPV that can cause oropharyngeal cancer, as well as other types of cancer.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease, a risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer. Brushing and flossing regularly using mouthwash is the most convenient way to practice good oral hygiene. Also, do not miss routine dental check-ups, which can help in early detection of any oral health issues.
Smoking and alcohol use are major risk factors for oropharyngeal cancer. Avoid all forms of tobacco and limit alcohol consumption to reduce the risk.
A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can promote oral health and reduce the risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer. Add low-fat, sugar-free dairy products, leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, and celery, etc. to maintain oral health.
Avoid sugary and acidic foods and beverages, which are associated with a higher risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer.
Oropharyngeal cancer is a serious disease that can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. Early detection and recognition of symptoms are also important in the treatment and management of oropharyngeal cancer. It is important to seek medical attention if any concerning symptoms arise. By taking proactive steps, individuals can take control of their oral health and reduce their risk of this disease.
For any queries or concerns related to oropharyngeal cancer, contact ACTC, one of the best cancer centers in Florida that provide personalized cancer care plans.