What is the prognosis (chance of recovery) for people with oropharyngeal cancers?

The prognosis for people with oropharyngeal cancer depends on your age and overall health, the HPV status of the tumor, history of smoking, and stage of cancer. Tumors that are HPV-associated have a dramatically improved cure rate, compared to tumors that are not associated with HPV. It is important for people with oral cancer or oropharyngeal cancer to have follow-up exams for the rest of their lives as cancer can occur in nearby areas. In addition, it is important to eliminate risk factors like smoking and drinking, which increase the risk for second cancers, or recurrent cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, the five year relative survival rate is 70%. This means that if you have cancer, you are 70% as likely to live for at least five years after being diagnosed as people who don’t have cancer. Keep in mind that this number does not take into account your age, general health, treatment response and HPV 16 status. The survival rate does not apply if your cancer stage changes. Also keep in mind that the survival rates are based on statistics collected five years earlier and newer treatments and management strategies are becoming available all the time.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/24/2020.


  • National Cancer Institute. Oropharyngeal Cancer Treatment. Accessed 9/21/2020.
  • American Cancer Society. Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer. Accessed 9/21/2020.
  • Kim ES, Gunn GB, William Jr. WN, Kies MS. Chapter 16. Head and Neck Cancer. In: Kantarjian HM, Wolff RA, Koller CA, eds. The MD Anderson Manual of Medical Oncology. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2011. Accessed 9/21/2020.

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