Hypopharyngeal Cancers

Hypopharyngeal cancer, also known as hypopharyngeal carcinoma, refers to the malignant growth of cells in the hypopharynx. The hypopharynx is the bottom part of the pharynx or throat, located at the base of the tongue and the upper part of the esophagus. Hypopharyngeal cancer is relatively rare compared to other types of head and neck cancers, such as oral, laryngeal, or nasopharyngeal cancer.

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk of developing hypopharyngeal cancer, including tobacco and alcohol use, as well as exposure to certain chemicals and irritants. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can also increase the risk.


Common symptoms of hypopharyngeal cancer include sore throat, difficulty or pain while swallowing, persistent cough, hoarseness, ear pain, and a lump in the neck. These symptoms can often be mistaken for other less serious conditions.


Diagnosis usually involves a physical examination, a thorough medical history, and various imaging tests (e.g., CT scan, MRI), as well as a biopsy to confirm the presence of cancer.


Staging is an important part of determining the extent of the cancer and planning treatment. Stages range from I (early stage) to IV (advanced stage) based on the tumor's size, location, and the extent of its spread.


Treatment for hypopharyngeal cancer typically involves a combination of approaches, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The specific treatment plan depends on the stage of the cancer, the patient's overall health, and other factors. Surgical options may include removing part or all of the hypopharynx, and sometimes the voice box (larynx). In some cases, reconstructive surgery is performed to help restore swallowing and speech.


The prognosis for hypopharyngeal cancer depends on the stage at diagnosis and the effectiveness of treatment. Early-stage cancers are more treatable and have a better prognosis. However, advanced-stage cancers can be more challenging to treat and may have a poorer prognosis.


After treatment, individuals may require speech therapy, swallowing therapy, or rehabilitation to regain their ability to speak and swallow effectively. Supportive care and lifestyle changes may also be necessary.


Reducing or eliminating risk factors like tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption can help lower the risk of developing hypopharyngeal cancer. Additionally, the HPV vaccine can reduce the risk associated with certain HPV-related cancers.