FEATURE: Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Oropharynx
Brad Morris, M.D., Otolarnygologist
Overall, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma rates have been slowly declining, but human papilloma virus (HPV) related oropharyngeal cancer has been on the rise. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 45,000 people will be diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer in 2015. Currently, it is the 8th most common cancer in men.
What is the Oropharynx?
The oropharynx consists of the tonsils, the soft palate, the posterior pharyngeal wall, and base of tongue. Most of this area is visible, but often parts of the tonsils and a large portion of the base of tongue cannot be seen by directly looking into the mouth. A more detailed head and neck exam with a mirror or flexible scope is required to exam these areas. When the linings of the mouth and throat become damaged at the DNA level, squamous cell carcinoma can develop leading to uncontrolled growth and spread.
Symptoms of Oropharyngeal Cancer
The most common signs or symptoms include: persistent sore throat, bad breath, red or white patches in the back of the throat, a feeling of something stuck in the throat, neck mass, numbness or weakness of tongue, coughing up blood, hoarseness, changes in speech, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, difficulty opening the mouth, and unexplained one-sided ear pain.
Click circles below to see 2014 statistics on Head and Neck Cancer.