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Oropharyngeal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Oropharyngeal Cancer


HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers may represent a distinct disease entity that is causally associated with HPV infection and that is also associated with an improved prognosis. Several studies indicate that individuals with HPV-positive tumors have significantly improved survivals.[10,49,50,51] In a prospective study involving 253 patients with newly diagnosed or recurrent head and neck SCC, HPV was detected in 25% of the cases. Poor tumor grade and an oropharyngeal site independently increased the probability of HPV presence.[10]

The risk of developing a second primary tumor in patients with tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract has been estimated to be 3% to 7% per year.[52,53] Because of this risk, surveillance of these patients should be lifelong. Patients should be counseled that continued smoking and alcohol consumption after treatment has been associated with the development of second primary tumors of the aerodigestive tract.[54,55,56] (Refer to the PDQ Smoking Cessation and Continued Risk in Cancer Patients summary for more information.)

To date, SCC of the oropharynx has not been associated with any specific chromosomal or genetic abnormalities. Genetic/chromosomal aberrations in these cancers are complex.[57,58] Despite the lack of specific genetic abnormalities, testing for genetic alterations or ploidy in early oropharyngeal lesions may identify patients who are at the greatest risk for progression and may lead to more definitive therapy.[27]


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This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: September 04, 2014
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