Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma with a cervical (neck) lymph node. The primary location is likely to be the mouth or throat (oropharyngeal). Alcohol and tobacco increase the risk, as does the HPV virus. (Source: Shutterstock)

Oropharyngeal Cancer


Cancers of the mouth are known as oropharyngeal carcinoma. They are relatively rare: about two to five diseases per 100,000 in men and 0.5 to one disease per 100,000 women.

Most patients with oropharyngeal cancer have been exposed to carcinogenic substances for many years. Tobacco consumption in the form of cigarettes, pipe tobacco and cigars has an immediate dose-response relationship. It significantly increases the risk of cancer of the throat. An increased consumption of alcohol and tobacco was found in 85 percent of patients suffering from head and neck cancer.

A distinction is made between tumours of the epithelium (the majority of diseases), tumours of the lymphatic tissue and salivary gland carcinomas. Based on their location, a distinction is made between tumours of the palatine tonsils, the base of the tongue and the soft palate.

Symptoms of oropharyngeal carcinoma:

Many patients complain of difficulty swallowing and a sore throat with pain radiating to the ear. Bad breath, lockjaw and blood in the saliva can be signs of a tumour of the mouth, as can a "nasal" voice. The disease is often accompanied by swelling of the cervical lymph nodes.

Oropharyngeal carcinomas can frequently be diagnosed with a laryngoscopy. As a rule, a panendoscopy of the entire throat area is also performed with intubation anesthesia. Small tissue samples are taken from the patient by biopsy and examined for fine tissue to confirm the diagnosis.

Imaging procedures such as sonography (ultrasound), computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used to determine the location and size of the tumour and to plan a therapy.

Therapies for the treatment of oropharyngeal carcinoma: