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The multidisciplinary team of doctors of the Stanford Head & Neck Cancer Program are highly experienced in using state-of-the-art cancer treatments. The program's multispecialty team consists of head and neck surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, speech language pathologists, registered dieticians, and a host of other individuals supporting each patient through his or her care journey.
Treatment for oropharyngeal cancer relies on using either surgery or radiation, with or without chemotherapy, depending on the stage and type of cancer. Treatment must be administered to the area of the throat where the tumor arises but also lymph nodes in the neck that might be involved.
Early stage cancers are typically treated with surgery and/or radiation. The treatment of later stage or recurrent cancers is more likely to include chemotherapy and/or experimental treatments.
At Stanford, we aim to reduce the toxicity and side effects associated with treatment for HPV-associated OPC through precision medicine: using robotic surgery, intensity-modulated radiation therapy and molecular targeted chemotherapy.
Robotic head and neck surgery provides patients with an option for a minimally invasive approach to remove oropharyngeal cancer and quickly return patients to daily life. Instead of facing seven weeks of radiation therapy and chemotherapy, patients undergo a single surgical procedure that may eliminate the need for further treatment or reduce the dose—and associated side effects—of post-operative radiation.
Like all head and neck cancers, oropharyngeal cancers are rare. About 8,000 people each year are diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer each year in the United States. Therefore, it is important to be seen by a team of doctors who have expertise in treating the disease in the specific part of the oropharynx in which you are affected.
The oropharynx plays an important role in speech and swallowing, therefore Stanford Cancer Center experts in speech and swallowing therapists are integrated into therapy early on to help patients rapidly regain function and adapt to anatomical changes that may occur with treatment. Cancer Center surgeons are also experienced providing reconstructive surgery of the soft palate if necessary.
Improving your chances of success
Tobacco and alcohol consumption are the primary causes of cancers of the oropharynx. Encouragingly, studies have shown that you will respond better to treatment if you can stop smoking or chewing tobacco during and after receiving therapy. The Stanford Cancer Center offers free smoking cessation services to help you meet this important goal.
It is also essential that you receive appropriate follow-up care after your initial treatment. Your Cancer Center doctor check your thyroid (because treatment can sometimes disrupt thyroid function), discuss the potential role of taking medication to reduce your risk of having another cancer, and examine your pharyngeal area about once a month for the first year, and periodically thereafter, to look for new tumors.
The use of high-energy radiation to kill or shrink cancer cells, tumors, and non-cancerous diseases.
Surgery is a procedure to find out whether cancer is present, to remove cancer from the body, or to repair a body part. Also called an operation. Surgery is sometimes used for pharyngeal cancer that does not respond to radiation therapy. If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the doctor may remove lymph nodes and other tissues in the neck. Learn more about cancer surgery.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.