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. Treating Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer. 2021.
  • Machiels JP, Leemans CR, & Golusinski W. Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, larynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx: EHNS-ESMO-ESTRO clinical practices guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology. 2020: 31(11): 146201475.
  • Mierzwa ML, Casper KA, Swiecicki PL. Oropharynx cancer. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg S. eds. DeVita Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2023: Kindle version, chapter 26, https://read.amazon.ca/?asin=B0BG3DPT4Q&language=en-CA.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network . NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Head and Neck Cancer Version 2.2023 . 2023: https://www.nccn.org/guidelines/category_1.
  • PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Oropharyngeal Cancer Treatment (Adult) (PDQ®) – Health Professional. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2023: https://www.cancer.gov/.

Treatments for early stage oropharyngeal cancer

Surgery and radiation are the primary treatments for early stage oropharyngeal cancer.

Treatments for advanced stage oropharyngeal cancer

Surgery and chemoradiation are the primary treatments for advanced oropharyngeal cancer.

Treatments for recurrent oropharyngeal cancer

Treatment of recurrent oropharyngeal cancer depends mainly on where the cancer has come back and what treatments you have already been given.

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

Radiation therapy is a main treatment used to treat oropharyngeal cancer. It is often combined with chemotherapy.

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

Targeted therapy may be used for high-risk, advanced or metastatic oropharyngeal cancer.

Immunotherapy for oropharyngeal cancer

Some people wih oropharyngeal cancer may have immunotherapy. Immunotherapy uses natural or artificial substances that change the way cells behave.

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.