Treatments for oropharyngeal cancer

If you have oropharyngeal cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for oropharyngeal cancer, your healthcare team will consider:

  • the stage of the cancer
  • the size and location of the tumour in the oropharynx
  • where the cancer has spread
  • the best way to maintain swallowing, talking and breathing
  • your overall health
  • what you prefer or want

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer. 2014:
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Oral and Oropharyngeal cancer. 2016:
  • Beadle BM, Rosenthal DI . Multidisciplinary management of oropharynx carcinomas. Bernier J (ed.). Head and Neck Cancer: Multimodality Management. Springer; 2016: 27: 475 - 510.
  • Ferris, RL, Blumenschein G, Fayette J, Guigay J, et al . Nivolumab for recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016.
  • Mourad WF, Hu KS, Choi WH, et al . Cancer of the oropharynx: General principles and management. Harrison LB, Sessions RB, Kies MS (eds.). Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 17A: 373 - 414.
  • National Cancer Institute. Oropharyngeal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2017:

Treatments for early stage oropharyngeal cancer

Surgery and radiation are the primary treatments for stage I oropharyngeal cancer. Learn about treatments, including chemoradiation and neck dissection to remove lymph nodes.

Treatments for advanced stage oropharyngeal cancer

Surgery and chemoradiation are the primary treatments for stage 3 oropharyngeal cancer. Learn about other treatments, including radiation.

Treatments for recurrent oropharyngeal cancer

Treatment of recurrent oropharyngeal cancer depends mainly on where the cancer recurs and past treatment. Learn about treatment of local or metastatic recurrence.

Surgery for oropharyngeal cancer

Surgery is the primary treatment for oropharyngeal cancer. Learn about wide local excision, neck dissection and other surgeries.

Radiation therapy for oropharyngeal cancer

Oropharyngeal cancer is one of the primary treatments. Learn about radiation therapy – when it is used, how it is given, external beam radiation, brachytherapy and chemoradiation.

Chemotherapy for oropharyngeal cancer

Chemotherapy is used to treat oropharyngeal cancer. Learn how and when chemotherapy is used and what chemotherapy combination drugs are used.

Targeted therapy for oropharyngeal cancer

Biological therapy may be used for high-risk, advanced or metastatic oropharyngeal cancer. Learn about biological therapy including cetuximab.

Immunotherapy for oropharyngeal cancer

Immunotherapy is sometimes used to treat oropharyngeal cancer. Immunotherapy helps to strengthen or restore the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is sometimes called biological therapy.

Follow-up after treatment for oropharyngeal cancer

Follow-up after oropharyngeal cancer treatment varies. Learn about scheduled follow-up appointments, and the procedures and tests that may be done.