Oropharyngeal cancer can develop from 50 years of age onwards and affects smokers and non-smokers alike. It is located in the mouth, the tongue, the palette and the pharynx (in the throat). The symptoms can be confused with other illnesses, which is why it is important to learn to recognise them.
Wounds in the mouth
- The majority of oropharyngeal cancers lead to the appearance of carcinomas, a thin, flat type of flaky skin that looks different to typical wounds or canker sores.
- One of the earliest signs of oropharyngeal cancer is the appearance of little wounds that don’t tend to heal.
- Fairly regular appearance of red or white marks on the tongue, the gums or where the lips join.
If you notice one of these symptoms or any unusual changes which don’t heal, consult your doctor.
Pain in the throat
- Pain during chewing or swallowing is one of the most common symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer.
- Suddenly, speaking or moving your tongue can become painful.
- This pain can spread to the ears.
- Bleeding and pain the mouth for people who wear dentures.
Consult your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
A lump in your throat
If you have difficulty swallowing, and feel as if your throat is ‘knotted’ or if you spit up blood, consult your doctor urgently.
A difficulty with swallowing, always feeling a burning sensation in the tonsils or even coughing up blood are things that should absolutely not be ignored.
However, these irritations could also be caused by infections or benign illnesses that do not pose any serious health risks.
Unexplained weight loss
Weight loss is one of the common symptoms of a number of cancers. In the case of oropharyngeal cancer, the person could always feel hungry or they may not be able to chew properly.
The weaker the immune system becomes, the more weight will fall off.
How can you prevent oropharyngeal cancer?
No illness can be 100% prevented, even naturally.
However, you can control certain trigger factors for this type of cancer, in order to reduce your risk of developing it.
Oropharyngeal cancer can be linked to several factors:
- human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Ultra Violet rays (there is a link between lip cancer and over exposure to sunlight)
- poor diet
- a weak immune system
- a genetic illness (Fanconi anaemia)
To limit these risk factors, it is recommended that you stop smoking, avoid drinking too much alcohol, eat a balanced diet and use sun protection factor on your skin and lips. In the case of doubt, consult your doctor for tests.