What are the symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer?

Oropharyngeal cancer is cancer that affects the middle section of the pharynx, often including the platform, or the back or mouth, the back of the tongue, the tonsils, and the walls of the pharynx. It mainly affects men over 60 years of age, especially Afro-descendants. It is vital to alert a healthcare professional if any symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer arise so that timely treatment can be planned. The most common symptoms include a lump in the throat or at the back of the mouth, persistent sore throat, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, and weight loss.

The first symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer are usually a lump on the side of the throat, inside the throat, or inside the mouth, which is usually followed by a sore throat. A large lump on the side of the throat may indicate that the cancer has already spread to at least one lymph node. A persistent sore throat is another sign and is usually accompanied by a cough. It is normal for the pain to be only on one side of the throat, especially when swallowing, and for the pain to also be felt in the ear. This is because the nerve endings in the ear go down the same pathways in the throat, which can cause referred pain.

It is common for a person suspected of having oropharyngeal cancer to experience difficulty swallowing. This is usually due to cancer blocking the esophagus or just pain. If a blockage is present, another symptom of oropharyngeal cancer can also be a change in voice. The voice may sound duller and duller, which is commonly called "hot potato" by doctors. Other common signs and symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include sudden and unexplained weight loss, leukoplakia, or erythroplakia, which are white or red spots in the oropharynx. The jaw may also swell or become very difficult to move. On rare occasions, the teeth may appear loose.

Some of these symptoms are not just signs of oropharyngeal cancer, but may also be related to other serious health conditions. As such, most medical professionals recommend seeking medical attention when symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer first appear. Treatment for oropharyngeal cancer usually depends on the patient's age and, more importantly, how advanced the cancer is. Once oropharyngeal cancer has been confirmed, a doctor can present a variety of treatments suitable for each individual case.

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