Treatment options

Following a diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer, your cancer care team will discuss the treatment options including the possibility of participating in a clinical trial that is suitable for you. This is also a good time to consider if you would like a second opinion.

The most suitable treatment for oropharyngeal cancer depends on many things including:

  • size and location of the cancer

  • whether the cancer has spread

  • whether the cancer is caused by smoking or HPV

  • personal factors (e.g. age, general health and treatment history)

  • treatments available

  • your preferences for treatment.

There are three types of treatment available for oropharyngeal cancer. These include:

  • Surgery

  • Radiation therapy

  • Chemotherapy

For many people there may be more than one treatment option that gives approximately the same chance of curing the cancer. Each treatment option has its advantages and disadvantages. Generally, people with curable oropharyngeal cancer may be offered one of two treatment options. These include:
  • Definitive radiation therapy either on its own or at the same time as chemotherapy (concurrent chemoradiation)

  • Surgery, which depending on the pathology results, may need to be followed by a course of radiation therapy (adjuvant radiation therapy); either on its own or at the same time (concurrent) as chemotherapy.