Cancer is a condition when some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Oropharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that occurs in the oropharynx (soft palate, tonsil and back of tongue). The below mentioned diagnosis and treatment options will help in recognizing oropharyngeal cancer at an early stage and taking suitable steps to avoid extreme conditions:
Physical examination: Physical examinations of the mouth, throat, and neck are typically the first step in the diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer. A complete medical history and a visual assessment, palpation, and examination are collected during the procedure.
Biopsy: This is done to find out if cancer cells are present. For the same, a tissue sample from the affected area is collected and examined under a microscope.
Imaging tests: This is performed to assess the tumor’s size and location, for which CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans are performed on the affected part, it also helps in identifying the extend of tumor spread locally and to other body parts.
Endoscopy: This is the process of inserting a small, flexible or rigid tube into the throat to examine the affected area and collect tissue samples for Biopsy.
When treating oropharyngeal cancer, numerous factors are taken into consideration—including stage, location, and an individual’s overall health. Chemotherapy plus Radiation therapy and surgery have traditionally been successful methods for treating the disease in its earlier stages.
Radiation therapy: It is a type of cancer treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other radiation types to hinder the growth of cancerous cells or destroy them completely while causing minimal damage to the patient’s healthy tissues. External beam radiation therapy and Brachytherapy are the two major methods of radiation therapy, a machine that delivers high-energy radiation beams to the affected area from outside the body is known as the external beam radiation treatment.
Surgery: Surgery is a successful treatment option for certain oropharyngeal cancers, especially when the condition is still in its early stages. In this type of treatment, the tonsils, soft palate, and/or back of the tongue may all be removed along with the tumor and some surrounding tissues, ensuring that all cancer cells are removed.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is used along with radiation therapy to treat oropharyngeal cancer or it may be used alone to relieve pain or control the symptoms of advanced oropharyngeal cancer.
Targeted Therapy: The foundation of precision medicine is targeted therapy, which is a type of cancer therapy that focuses on the changes cancer cells undergo to enable their growth, division, and spread.
After treatment, it is essential to adhere to the advised aftercare. While there can be some possible side effects including feelings of unease, problems swallowing, or speech impediments, the issues will improve over time. Lastly, don’t forget to visit doctor for follow up visits to ensure that there is no recurrence.
By: Dr. Parin Patel, Consultant- Head and Neck Surgical Oncology and Skull Base Surgery, HCG Cancer Centre – Ahmedabad