Current trends in initial management of oropharyngeal cancer: the declining use of open surgery

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2009 Dec;266(12):1845-55. doi: 10.1007/s00405-009-1109-2.


The widespread availability of novel primary treatment approaches against oropharyngeal cancers has provided several potentially curative surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for patients, generating both hope and controversy. As treatment is usually curative in intent, management considerations must include consideration of primary tumor and nodal disease control as well as long-term toxicities and functional outcomes. Anatomical and functional organ preservation (speech and deglutition) remains of paramount importance to patients with oropharyngeal cancer and the physicians involved in their care, accounting for the growing popularity of chemoradiotherapy and transoral surgical techniques for this indication. These novel approaches have greatly diminished the role of open surgery as initial therapy for oropharyngeal cancers. Open surgery which is often reserved for salvage on relapse, may still be an appropriate therapy for certain early stage primary lesions. The growing treatment armamentarium requires careful consideration for optimal individualized care. The identification of oncogenic human papillomavirus as a predictive and prognostic marker in patients with oropharyngeal cancer has great potential to further optimize the choice of treatment. In this review, novel primary therapies against oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma are presented in the context of anatomical, quality of life, and emerging biological considerations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Laryngectomy*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Prognosis
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / methods


  • Antineoplastic Agents