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Oropharyngeal cancer, by Dr. Meritxell Tomás

Dr. Meritxell Tomás, ENT specialist at the Centro Integral de Otorrinolaringología (CIO), explains the main causes of oropharyngeal cancer, which include, among others, the human papilloma virus:“Oropharyngeal cancer is located in the area of the tonsils, the back wall of the pharynx, the soft palate and the back of the tongue, which is what is called the base of the tongue. The most typical oropharyngeal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which is related to tobacco and alcohol consumption, but in recent years it has also been linked to the human papilloma virus.

The most typical oropharyngeal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which is related to tobacco and alcohol consumption, but in recent years it has also been related to the human papilloma virus.This virus is very common in the general population and is transmitted sexually. There are low-risk variants or serotypes that will generate papilloma or wart-like lesions in the oral cavity and oropharynx, and then there are high-risk variants that can eventually develop into cancer.What happens when a person is infected by the human papilloma virus? In a large percentage of the population their immune system eliminates the virus, but in 1 or 2 out of every 100 patients their immune system is not capable of eliminating the virus, which would remain in our body and could, over time, cause a series of cellular changes that could trigger the appearance of lesions in the pharynx.When should a patient see an otolaryngologist? Whenever there is persistent pharyngeal pain lasting more than 15 days, when there is pain referred to the ear, obviously if a lesion is seen in the area of the tonsils and soft palate or when a tumor or lump appears at neck level, whether or not associated with the symptoms described above.

On these occasions, the patient should consult the otolaryngologist so that we can carry out an exhaustive exploration of the upper airway-digestive tract and, if we find any lesion, we can establish diagnostic and treatment protocols as soon as possible”.