The fastest growing cancer in the United States is preventable.
One of several types of throat cancer, oropharynx (OPX) cancer develops behind the mouth in the tonsils and tongue. Risk factors for OPX cancer are common, including use of tobacco, use of alcohol, and exposure to virus. But the most prevalent cause over the last decade is the sexually transmitted infection known as human papillomavirus (HPV), making OPX cancer become the fastest growing cancer in the U.S.
Thankfully—in addition to the innovative treatment plans pioneered by experts at Mayo Clinic—HPV-related cancers are preventable. If you or your children have not been vaccinated for HPV, ask your doctor for guidance on vaccination.
HPV vaccines are the only way to fully prevent HPV-related cancers.
Comprehensive care you expect in a one-of-a-kind clinic.
By affecting the back of the mouth where the base of the tongue and throat come together, OPX cancer and its treatment can impact everyday quality of life in a variety of ways: breathing, swallowing, tasting, chewing, smiling, talking, and singing—to name a few. For this reason, the Oropharynx Cancer Clinic at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minnesota, is designed to focus on a patient’s goals for quality of life.
The multidisciplinary team is pioneering novel approaches to individualized treatment for patients with OPX cancer, and begins the process for each by meeting collectively pre-treatment in a single room with the patient. The team’s collaborative approach leads to personal, comprehensive, and efficient care during a stressful time for patients, saving a significant amount of time that would otherwise require multiple visits. Experts specializing in otolaryngology, oncology, radiation oncology, and more, when needed, speak with the patient about the diagnosis, minimally invasive treatment options, and likely outcomes to align on an individualized treatment plan. According to clinic founders, the most important person on the care team is the patient.
The right amount of treatment goes a long way.
It’s not uncommon for patients to arrive at the Oropharynx Cancer Clinic frightened about traditional diagnosis and treatment of OPX cancer. Where traditional treatment is long, aggressive, inflexible, and greatly impacts quality of life, the minimally invasive, less intensive techniques used by the clinic give its team the ability to provide just the right amount of treatment for each person, and nothing more. For example, the de-escalation of radiation therapy dose and volume can result in fewer side effects and improved quality of life. This personalized approach to treating OPX cancer wouldn’t be possible without access to the latest technology and innovative techniques available at Mayo Clinic.
A multidisciplinary team of experts with a single focus.
The team at the Oropharynx Cancer Clinic are leading research in cancer care, using innovative techniques and technology.
Let’s take a look at the clinic’s approaches to treatment, a combination of which is determined within each individualized treatment plan.
- Surgery: Head and neck surgeons specialize in minimally invasive surgical techniques, including transoral robotic surgery, and 3D printed models for care planning.
- Radiation therapy: Since many of the long-term effects of OPX cancer treatment are related to radiation dose received, radiotherapy dose is tailored to patient risk factors.
- Chemotherapy: Medical oncologists select the chemotherapy drugs that are most likely to be effective against the patient’s cancer cells. The care team helps manage side effects. For people with throat cancer, chemotherapy is often used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Sometimes it’s combined with radiation therapy.
- Reconstructive surgery: Some patients with head and neck cancer may need reconstructive surgery to regain mouth function. OPX head and neck surgeons use the latest techniques in reconstructive surgery for restoring the ability to speak and eat.
- Rehabilitation: Specialists in speech and swallowing therapies, dietetics, physical therapy, and occupational therapy help patients through the recovery process after treatment.
Building more momentum for less intense treatment.
Two clinical trials focused on reducing side effects and recovery time have generated critical data at the Oropharynx Cancer Clinic. The clinic’s nimble structure, shorter treatments, and 90% patient participation rate allows its experts to gather significant data in a relatively short amount of time, transforming the way HPV-related OPX cancer is treated. With rigorous standards for record keeping that spans patient treatment plans, outcomes, and long-term recovery, the trials lay the groundwork for continuous learning and advancement while improving quality of life for patients.
Learn more about head and neck cancers from the experts at Mayo Clinic.