What Are Oral Cavity Cancer and Oropharyngeal Cancers?
Oral cavity cancer originates in the mouth. It could also be called mouth cancer.
Oropharyngeal cancer originates in the middle section of the throat, right beyond the oral cavity, says Dr Suvadip Chakrabarti, the best head and neck cancer doctor in Kolkata.
The oral cavity (mouth) and oropharynx (throat)
The oral cavity includes the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks (buccal mucosa), the gums, the teeth, the front two-thirds of the tongue, the floor of the mouth below the tongue, the roof of the mouth (hard palate) and the area behind the wisdom teeth.
The oropharynx is the middle region of the throat directly behind the oral cavity. It can be noticed when your mouth is wide open. It contains the base of the tongue (the back third of the tongue), the soft palate (the back half of the roof of the mouth), the tonsils and the side and back walls of the throat.
The mouth cavity and oropharynx help you breathe, talk, eat, chew and swallow. Minor salivary glands all across the oral cavity and oropharynx create saliva that keeps your mouth and throat wet and helps you digest meals, says the head and neck cancer surgeon in Kolkata.
Types of oral cavity and oropharynx malignancies
The diverse sections of the oral cavity and oropharynx are made up of many types of cells. Different malignancies can start in each type of cell. These distinctions are essential because they can impact a person’s treatment options and prognosis.
Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity and oropharynx
Almost 90% of the oral cavity and oropharynx malignancies are squamous cell carcinomas, also called squamous cell cancers. These malignancies start in squamous cells, which are flat, thin cells that form in the mouth and throat lining.
The earliest kind of squamous cell cancer is called carcinoma in situ. This signifies that the cancer cells are exclusively in the epithelium layer (the top layer of cells lining the oral cavity and oropharynx). This is different from squamous cell cancer, where the cancer cells have spread past the epithelium into the deeper layers of the oral cavity or oropharynx, says the best head and neck cancer doctor in Kolkata.
Infection with specific high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes most of the squamous cell cancers of the oropharynx (called HPV-positive cancer). HPV is rarely related to oral cavity cancer.
HPV-positive malignancies are seen more often in young people. These malignancies tend to have a better prognosis than squamous cell cancers not associated with an HPV infection (HPV-negative cancer). This is probably because HPV-positive tumors decrease when treated with chemotherapy and radiation, says the head and neck cancer surgeon in Kolkata.
It is an uncommon kind of squamous cell cancer most typically detected in the gums and cheeks. It’s a slow-growing cancer that hardly ever spreads to other body sections.
Other forms of oral cavity and oropharynx cancers
Minor salivary gland cancers
These tumours can arise in the glands lining the mouth and throat. Several forms of small salivary gland malignancies include adenoid cystic carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma and polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma.
The tonsils and base of the tongue contain immune system (lymphoid) tissue, where tumours termed lymphomas can originate.
For more details, consult Dr Suvadip Chakrabarti, the best head and neck cancer doctor in Kolkata.