Oropharyngeal Cancer

Oropharyngeal cancer is the name given to cancers which affect the part of the throat called the Oropharynx. This part of the body includes the tonsils, the base of the tongue, the soft palate (the roof of the mouth)  and the pharynx which is the top of the throat.  

The type of cancer which usually affects this part of the body is called Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma means the cancer cells form in the soft skin which coats the oropharynx. Your skin doesn't just cover your body but also covers parts which you might not expect it to: the throat, the vagina, the anus for example. OSCC means that the cancer has developed in the soft skin lining of the oropharynx, or the throat. This type of cancer accounts for about 90% of oropharyngeal cancer.


There are quite a few things that can be symptomatic of Oropharyngeal Cancer - please remember that these can also be symptoms for a whole range of illnesses not just cancer. The best thing you can do if you are worried is go to your doctor and get checked over.

The chances are very low that you have cancer but it is always better to get checked as soon as possible. All cancer treatment works better with early detection, so please do not worry but DO get your doctor to check you over if you have any of these symptoms for more than three weeks:

  • sore throat/hoarse voice

  • lump in the neck

  • red/white patches in the throat

  • difficulty swallowing

  • unusual weight loss

  • stiff/difficult to move jaw

  • unexplained bleeding in the mouth

  • loose teeth

  • bad breath

  • ulcers in the mouth which do not heal

As you can see the symptoms can appear to be fairly common place and in most cases it will not be cancer. However, if you do have these symptoms for a prolonged period of time please make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can.

You can find your nearest NHS GP here. If you cannot find a GP near you there will be walk in clinics at hospitals which you can attend too.

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