What is mouth and oropharyngeal cancer?
Mouth and oropharyngeal cancer is when abnormal cells in the mouth and oropharynx start to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way.
Mouth cancer can start in different parts of the mouth, including the lips, gums or soft sides of the mouth. Oropharyngeal cancer starts in the oropharynx. The oropharynx is the part of the throat (pharynx) just behind the mouth. It includes tonsil cancer and cancer in the back part of the tongue.
Mouth cancer is also sometimes called oral cancer.
This section is about both mouth and oropharyngeal cancer. These cancers often start in the same type of cell. Doctors use similar tests and treatments for these cancers although there are some differences.
If your cancer started on your tongue, you might also find it useful to look at our information about tongue cancer.
The medical term for the mouth is the oral cavity. Mouth cancer can start anywhere in the oral cavity. This includes the:
- inside lining of the cheeks and lips (buccal mucosa)
- front 2/3 of the tongue
- gums (gingiva)
- floor of the mouth
- roof of the mouth (hard palate)
- area behind the wisdom teeth (retromolar trigone)
The mouth and oropharynx help us breathe, talk, eat, chew and swallow.
The medical term for the throat is the pharynx. The pharynx is divided into 3 parts.
The parts are:
The oropharynx is the part of the throat just behind the mouth. Cancer starting in this area is called oropharyngeal cancer (pronounced oar-oh-fah-rin-jee-al).
The oropharynx includes the:
- back 1/3 of the tongue
- soft area at the back of the roof of the mouth (soft palate)
- tonsils and 2 ridges of tissue in front of and behind the tonsils (tonsillar pillars)
- back wall of the throat
Reference: Cancer Researc.uk
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