Oral & Oropharyngeal Cancers

What Are Oral & Oropharyngeal Cancers ?

The oral cavity includes the:

  • Lips
  • Lining of the lips and cheeks, called the buccal mucosa
  • Upper and lower gums, called the gingiva
  • Front two-thirds of the tongue
  • Floor of the mouth under the tongue
  • Roof of the mouth, also called the hard palate
  • Retromolar trigone, which is the small area behind the wisdom teeth

The Oropharynx Begins Where The Oral Cavity Stops. It Includes The:

  • Soft palate at the back of the mouth
  • Part of the throat behind the mouth
  • Tonsils
  • Base of the tongue

More than 90% of oral and oropharyngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinoma.

Risk Factors For Oral & Oropharyngeal Cancers

  • Men are 2 to 3 times more likely than women to develop Head and Neck Cancers.
  • Tobacco and alcohol consumption
  • Prolonged sun exposure, especially linked to cancer in the lip area, as well as skin cancer of the head and neck
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Exposure to EBV is mainly a risk factor for Nasopharyngealcancer.
  • Poor oral and dental hygiene
  • Weakened immune system

Symptoms Of Head And Neck Cancers

  • Swelling or a sore that does not heal
  • Red or white patch in the mouth
  • Lump or mass in the head or neck area, with or without pain
  • Foul mouth odor not explained by hygiene
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Nasal obstruction or persistent nasal congestion
  • Frequent nose bleeds and/or unusual nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Loosening of teeth, Dentures that no longer fit
  • Unexplained weight loss and Fatigue
  • Ear pain or infection


For the diagnosis and extent of the disease a set of investigations required would include

  • Physical examination: a complete examination of the oral cavity and neck, feel for any lumps on the neck, lips, gums, and cheeks. The doctor will also inspect the nose, mouth, throat, and tongue for abnormalities, often using a light and a mirror for a clearer view.
  • Endoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET CT scan

Treatment For Oral & Oropharyngeal Cancers

Treatment usually involves a multidisciplinary approach to care for each patient. The treatment will be customised considering the location, extent of the disease and other patient related factors. The treatment would involve the following

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Therapies using medication
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy