What is hypopharyngeal cancer?

Hypopharyngeal cancer starts in the cells of the hypopharynx, which is part of the throat (pharynx). A cancerous (malignant) tumour is a group of cancer cells that can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Hypopharyngeal cancer is not common.

The hypopharynx is part of the pharynx (throat). The pharynx is part of the digestive and respiratory systems. It is divided into 3 parts. The nasopharynx is the top part. The oropharynx is the middle part. The hypopharynx is the bottom part. It connects the pharynx to the esophagus.

In some cases, changes to hypopharyngeal cells can cause hypopharyngeal cancer. Most often, hypopharyngeal cancer starts in the squamous cells that line the inside of the hypopharynx. This type of cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma of the hypopharynx.

Rare types of hypopharyngeal cancer can also develop. These include minor salivary gland carcinoma and sarcoma.

Expert review and references

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Laryngeal and Hypolaryngeal Cancer. 2016: http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/laryngeal-and-hypopharyngeal-cancer/view-all.
  • 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: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/hypopharyngeal-treatment-pdq.

The pharynx

The pharynx, commonly called the throat, is part of the digestive and respiratory systems. The pharynx is part of the head and neck.

Cancerous tumours of the hypopharynx

Cancerous hypopharyngeal tumours are growths that can spread to other parts of the body. Learn about squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the most common type of hypopharyngeal cancer.