At a Glance
- Hypopharyngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the hypopharynx.
- Cancer of the hypopharynx is uncommon; approximately 2,500 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.
- The peak incidence of this cancer occurs in males and females aged 50 to 60 years.
- In the United States, hypopharyngeal cancers are more common in men than in women. This cancer is extremely rare in children.
The hypopharynx is the bottom part of the pharynx (throat). The pharynx is a hollow tube about 5 inches long that starts behind the nose, goes down the neck, and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach). Air and food pass through the pharynx on the way to the trachea or the esophagus.
Most hypopharyngeal cancers form in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the hypopharynx. The hypopharynx has 3 different areas. Cancer may be found in 1 or more of these areas.
Risk factors of hypopharyngeal cancer include the following:
- Smoking tobacco.
- Chewing tobacco.
- Heavy alcohol use.
- Eating a diet without enough nutrients.
- Having Plummer-Vinson syndrome
Possible signs of hypopharyngeal cancer include:
- A sore throat that does not go away.
- Ear pain.
- A lump in the neck.
- Painful or difficult swallowing.
- A change in voice.