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What is Throat (Oropharyngeal) Cancer?

woman holding throat

The oropharynx is the area of the throat that includes the tonsils, base of tongue, soft palate and oropharyngeal wall. Oropharyngeal cancers, or throat cancers are malignant (cancerous) tumors that develop in these areas of the throat. Throat cancer is becoming more common today due to the association with the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, making up 50,000 new cases a year in the United States. The oropharynx is the only cancer in the head and neck area where HPV is considered to be the cause.

Symptoms of Throat Cancer

The following signs and symptoms could indicate throat cancer:

  • A persistent sore throat 
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Voice changes
  • Earache
  • A lump in the throat or mouth
  • A mass or lump in the neck