Prognosis and survival for hypopharyngeal cancer

If you have hypopharyngeal cancer, you may have questions about your prognosis. A prognosis is the doctor’s best estimate of how cancer will affect someone and how it will respond to treatment. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with your medical history, the type and stage and other features of the cancer, the treatments chosen and the response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the person (such as whether they smoke) that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. A predictive factor influences how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment. Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together. They both play a part in deciding on a treatment plan and a prognosis.

The following are prognostic and predictive factors for hypopharyngeal cancer.


The stage is the most important prognostic factor for hypopharyngeal cancer. The earlier the tumour is found, the better the prognosis. Unfortunately, most hypopharyngeal cancers are found at a later stage, when the cancer has grown into surrounding tissues and spaces.

Spread to lymph nodes

The number of lymph nodes in the neck (cervical lymph nodes) that have cancer cells in them at the time of diagnosis is a prognostic factor for hypopharyngeal cancer. The more lymph nodes that contain cancer cells, the poorer the prognosis.

Spread to surrounding tissues

Hypopharyngeal tumours that have grown into surrounding tissues have a poor prognosis. These tissues include muscles, nerves, bone, cartilage and blood vessels. Tumours can grow inward and deeper into the tissues of the hypopharynx or outward, toward the surface of the hypopharynx. The deeper the tumour has grown into surrounding tissues, the poorer the prognosis.


A history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use is often connected with a poor diet, which can lead to poor nutrition. People who have poor nutrition may not be healthy enough to have treatment for hypopharyngeal cancer. This can affect their outcome.

Tobacco and alcohol use

People who continue to smoke and drink alcohol during treatment for hypopharyngeal cancer tend to have more complications from treatment. These complications can affect the treatment schedule and the outcome. Smoking during radiation therapy can make the treatment less effective.

Performance status

Performance status is how well you can carry out common daily activities. The healthcare team uses different performance status scales to assess how the cancer is affecting you and your ability to tolerate treatment. People who have higher performance status scores may tolerate the effects of treatment better than those who have lower scores.


People who are under 60 tend to have a better prognosis than people who are over 60.


Women are usually diagnosed at an earlier stage. The earlier hypopharyngeal cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis.

Other health problems

People who have other health problems, such as heart or lung disease, have a poorer prognosis. These other health issues are called comorbidities.

Expert review and references

  • Hamoir M, Machiels JP, Schmitz S, Gregoire V . Multidisciplinary management of hypopharyngeal carcinoma. Bernier J (ed.). Head and Neck Cancer: Multimodality Management. Springer; 2016: 28: 511-537.
  • Harry Quon . Hypopharyngeal Cancer . 2017 :
  • National Cancer Institute . Hypopharyngeal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version . 2016 :

Survival statistics for hypopharyngeal cancer

Learn about survival statistics for hypopharyngeal cancer, including relative survival and survival by stage. Survival varies with each stage of hypopharyngeal cancer.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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