What is Oropharyngeal Cancer?

The Oropharynx

Oropharyngeal cancer develops in oropharynx, the part of the throat just behind the mouth and begins where the oral cavity ends. It is also called throat cancer. It includes the base of the tongue (back third of the tongue), the soft palate (the back part of the roof of the mouth), the tonsils, and the side and back wall of the throat.

The oropharynx helps you to breathe, talk, eat, chew, and swallow. Minor salivary glands located throughout the oropharynx make saliva that keeps your mouth moist and helps you digest food. And, It is composed of several types of body tissues, which are made up of several types of cells.

Squamous Cell Carcinomas

More than 90% of oropharynx cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, also called squamous cell cancers. Squamous cells are flat, scale-like cells that normally form the lining of the mouth and throat. Squamous cell cancer begins as a collection of abnormal squamous cells.

The earliest form of squamous cell cancer is called carcinoma in situ, meaning that the cancer cells are present only in the outer layer of cells called the epithelium. This is different from invasive squamous cell carcinoma, where the cancer cells have grown into deeper layers of the oropharynx.

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