What is oropharyngeal cancer?
Oropharyngeal cancer starts in the cells of the oropharynx, which is part of the throat (pharynx). A cancerous (malignant) tumour is a group of cancer cells that can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
The pharynx is part of the digestive and respiratory systems. It is divided into 3 parts. The nasopharynx is the top part. The oropharynx is the middle part, located at the back of the mouth. The hypopharynx is the bottom part.
Cells in the oropharynx sometimes change and no longer grow or behave normally. These changes may lead to non-cancerous (benign) conditions such as retention cysts. They can also lead to non-cancerous tumours such as papillomas or hemangiomas.
But in some cases, changes to oropharyngeal cells can cause oropharyngeal cancer. Most
often, oropharyngeal cancer starts in the
Rare types of oropharyngeal cancer can also develop. These include minor salivary gland carcinoma and lymphoma.
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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: https://www.cancer.gov/.