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Treatment for Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Penn Head and Neck Cancer is leading the way in the treatment of all types of hypopharyngeal cancers including squamous cell carcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), mucoepidermoid carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and lymphoma. Having pioneered many of the latest advancements in head and neck cancer treatment, our multidisciplinary team consists of experts from Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and Penn Ear, Nose and Throat who create individualized treatment plans using the latest non-surgical and surgical techniques. These treatment plans may combine surgery, radiation and chemotherapy or surgery alone.

Surgical Treatment for Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Types of surgical treatments performed to treat hypopharyngeal cancer include:

Endoscopic surgery

Microscopic direct laryngoscopy and laser microsurgery can be performed on early stage hypopharyngeal cancer while avoiding primary radiation. One of the major benefits of this approach is that can be performed multiple times.

Open Surgery

Is performed through the neck to remove these cancers which can involve preservation of the larynx by performing a partial laryngectomy or a total laryngectomy when necessary. We also have a skilled team of reconstructive surgeons to assist with reconstruction of the throat after these tumors are removed. 

Treating Hypopharyngeal Cancer With TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS)

(TORS) is the world's first minimally invasive robotic surgery technique that enables surgeons to remove benign and malignant tumors of the mouth and throat. TORS was invented and developed at Penn Medicine by the pioneering team of Bert W. O'Malley, Jr., MD and Gregory S. Weinstein, MD. There are many benefits of TORS for patients:

  • Quicker return to normal activity
  • Shorter hospitalization
  • Reduced risk of long-term swallowing problems (most commonly seen with chemo-radiation or traditional open surgery)
  • Fewer complications compared to traditional open surgery
  • Less scarring than traditional open surgery
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less risk of blood transfusion when compared to open surgery

Non-surgical Treatment for Hypopharyngeal Cancer

In some cases of hypopharyngeal cancer, non-surgical treatments may be used alone or in addition to surgery. Non-surgical treatments for hypopharyngeal cancer include:

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy for hypopharyngeal cancer can be provided at the Perelman Radiation Center. Oncologists at Penn Head and Neck Cancer work closely with the radiation oncologist to oversee follow-up care and ensure an individual’s symptoms are managed. For advanced stages of hypopharyngeal cancer, chemotherapy and radiation are both used.


Chemotherapy is only used in the treatment of hypopharyngeal cancer as a sensitizer for radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is never given alone for treatment