Oropharynx Cancer

Cancer of the Oropharynx Symptoms

These and other symptoms may be caused by oropharyngeal cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms.

A doctor should be seen if a person has:

  • A sore throat that does not go away
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • A lump in the back of the mouth or throat
  • A change in the voice
  • Pain in the ear

Stage 0 oropharyngeal cancer

Cancer is found only in cells lining the oropharynx. Stage 0 cancer is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage 1 oropharyngeal cancer

The cancer is 2 centimeters (about 3/4 inch) or smaller and has not spread outside the oropharynx.

Stage 2 oropharyngeal cancer

The cancer is larger than 2 centimeters, but not larger than 4 centimeters (about 1-1/2 inches), and has not spread outside the oropharynx.

Stage 3 oropharyngeal cancer

Stage III is either of the following:

  • The cancer is larger than 4 centimeters and has not spread outside the oropharynx.
  • The cancer is any size and has spread to only one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer. (Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures found throughout the body. They help fight infection and disease.) The lymph node that contains cancer is 3 centimeters (just over one inch) or smaller.

Stage 4 oropharyngeal cancer

Stage 4A

Stage IVA is either of the following:

  • The cancer has spread to tissues near the oropharynx, including the voice box, roof of the mouth, lower jaw, muscle of the tongue, or central muscles of the jaw. Cancer may have spread to one or more nearby lymph nodes, none larger than 6 centimeters (almost 2-1/2 inches).
  • The cancer is any size, is only in the oropharynx, and has spread to one lymph node that is larger than 3 centimeters but no larger than 6 centimeters, or to more than one lymph node, none larger than 6 centimeters.

Stage 4B

Stage IVB is either of the following:

  • The cancer is found in a lymph node that is larger than 6 centimeters and may have spread to other tissues around the oropharynx.
  • Cancer surrounds the main artery in the neck or has spread to bones in the jaw or skull, to muscle in the side of the jaw, or to the upper part of the throat behind the nose; the cancer may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage 4C

In stage IVC, cancer has spread to other parts of the body; the tumor may be any size and may have spread to lymph nodes.

Recurrent oropharyngeal cancer

Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the oropharynx or in another part of the body.

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