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woman touching her neck
woman touching her neck

Hypopharyngeal Cancer

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What is Hypopharyngeal Cancer?

Hypopharyngeal cancer is an abnormal growth of cancer cells in a region of the lower throat known as the hypopharynx. The hypopharynx lies within the lower neck and throat behind the voice box just above the inlet to the esophagus. The majority of these cancers (~95%) represent a type of cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma which is usually smoking-related but other rarer types of cancer in this region can also occur and are generally not smoking-related.

sagittal hypopharynx illustration

What are symptoms of Hypopharyngeal Cancer?

Symptoms for hypopharyngeal cancer can vary from patient to patient and can often go unnoticed for some time. Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty and/or pain with swallowing
  • Unexplained ear discomfort
  • Hoarse voice
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Painless lump or mass on the neck
  • Coughing blood

How is Hypopharyngeal Cancer diagnosed?

Your head and neck surgeon will visualize the hypopharynx using a simple in-office procedure called flexible fiberoptic endoscopy. A small flexible scope is inserted into the nose to help visualize tumor masses involving the hypopharynx. Local numbing medicine is given through the nose to make the procedure comfortable and painless for the patient. Further imaging (CT scan, MRI or PET scans) may be needed to better characterize the extent of the tumor. A biopsy is then usually performed in the operating room under general anesthesia to confirm the diagnosis and examine the tumor more closely.

How is Hypopharyngeal Cancer treated?

Treatment options depend on how large the tumor is or if it has spread to other parts of the body. It may include some or a combination of these depending on the extent of the tumor:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy medications that can activate the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

A team-based approach involving surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, speech language pathologists, and others is used to formulate the best treatment plan for each individual patient to control the tumor and promote the best quality of life possible after treatment.

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Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery

The Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery provides comprehensive surgical care and treatment for head and neck cancers. Our surgeons are at the leading edge of head and neck cancer treatment. You will benefit from the skilled care of head and neck surgeons, guiding clinical advancements in the field of head and neck cancer care.

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