What is Hypopharyngeal Cancer?

The hypopharynx works to help ensure that food goes around the larynx and into the esophagus. Hypopharyngeal cancer forms in the tissues of the hypopharynx, which is made up of three areas called the piriform sinus, the posterior hypopharyngeal wall and the posterior cricoid region.

Cancer that begins in the hypopharynx may spread to nearby tissues or to cartilage around the bone under the tongue (hyoid bone), the thyroid, the trachea, the larynx or the esophagus. It may also spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, the carotid artery, the tissues around the upper part of the spinal column, the lining of the chest cavity and to other parts of the body. Most hypopharyngeal cancers form in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the hypopharynx.

Types of Hypopharyngeal Cancers

Hypopharyngeal cancer can manifest in several different ways, and depending on the type, will require different treatment plans.

Types of hypopharyngeal cancer treated by the Penn Head and Neck Cancer team include:

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC)
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Lymphoma

Symptoms of Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Symptoms of hypopharyngeal cancers may include:

  • Pain and/or trouble while swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Weight loss
  • A mass in the neck (tumors in the lymph nodes)
  • Hoarseness in voice
  • Sore throat
  • Persistent coughing
  • Swollen lymph nodes