Treatments for stage 3 hypopharyngeal cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 3 hypopharyngeal cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


Surgery is one of the main treatments for stage 3 hypopharyngeal cancer. It is used to remove the tumour along with a margin of healthy tissue around it. Surgery is the main treatment option when the cancer has made it difficult to swallow or breathe. The most common surgery used is a laryngopharyngectomy with a neck dissection. A laryngopharyngectomy removes part or all of the larynx (voice box), part or all of the pharynx (throat) and part of the esophagus. A neck dissection removes the lymph nodes in the neck (cervical lymph nodes).

Other procedures may be done to help with breathing and nutrition. These include:

  • placement of a breathing tube (called a tracheostomy) to help you breathe
  • placement of a feeding tube (usually a gastrostomy) to make sure you get enough nutrients

Surgery for hypopharyngeal cancer may affect your ability to speak and swallow. It may also affect your appearance. Reconstructive surgery is often done to improve the look and function of the mouth and neck as much as possible. It is usually done at the same time as the surgery to remove the hypopharyngeal tumour.


Chemoradiation is one of the main treatments for stage 3 hypopharyngeal cancer. In chemoradiation, chemotherapy is given during the same time period as radiation therapy. The chemotherapy makes the radiation more effective.

For stage 3 hypopharyngeal cancer, cisplatin is the chemotherapy drug given along with radiation to the tumour and lymph nodes on both sides of the neck.

Radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy is one of the main treatments for stage 3 hypopharyngeal cancer. Radiation therapy is usually given during the same time period as chemotherapy (called chemoradiation). Radiation therapy or chemoradiation is given after surgery for stage 3 hypopharyngeal cancer.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a specialized type of external beam radiation therapy. It may be used to lessen the damage to tissues around the tumour.


Chemotherapy may be given to shrink the tumour before surgery or radiation therapy for stage 3 hypopharyngeal cancer. The most common chemotherapy drug combination used to treat hypopharyngeal cancer is cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil, 5-FU).

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to people with hypopharyngeal cancer in Canada. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers. 2014:
  • 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.
  • Kruser TJ, Pagedar NA, Hoffman HT, Harari PM . Cancers of the hypopharynx and cervical esophagus: general principles and management. Harrison LB, Sessions RB, Kies MS (eds.). Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 19: 482 - 509.
  • National Cancer Institute . Hypopharyngeal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version . 2016 :