Oropharyngeal cancer

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If oropharyngeal cancer spreads

Cancer cells can spread from the oropharynx to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis.

Understanding how a type of cancer usually grows and spreads helps your healthcare team plan your treatment and future care. If oropharyngeal cancer spreads, it can spread to the following:

  • lymph nodes in the neck (cervical lymph nodes)
  • the pharyngeal wall
  • muscles in the wall of the pharynx (throat)
  • jaw and tongue muscles
  • the jawbones
  • cranial nerves
  • the hard and soft palates
  • blood vessels in the neck
  • the nasopharynx
  • the hypopharynx
  • the larynx (voice box)
  • the base of the skull
  • the lung
  • the liver
  • the bone

People with oropharyngeal cancer have a higher risk of developing a second type of cancer in nearby organs such as the esophagus, larynx or lungs. The second type of cancer may be found at the same time as oropharyngeal cancer or after oropharyngeal cancer is diagnosed.

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Great progress has been made

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Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.

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