Symptoms and Signs of Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 4/15/2022

Doctor's Notes on Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Hypopharyngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) squamous cells form in the tissues of the hypopharynx (bottom part of the pharynx or throat). Signs and symptoms of the disease are

The cancer cells can go through stages (0 through IV) based on size and location as it spreads through the neck tissues, lymph system, and the blood, and eventually to other organs (stage IV).

What causes the squamous cells to change into cancer cells is unknown, but risk factors that are associated with the disease include smoking and/or chewing tobacco, heavy use of alcohol, eating a poor diet, and having Plummer-Vinson syndrome (long-term iron deficiency anemia with throat webs and dysphagia).

What Are the Treatments of Hypopharyngeal Cancer?

The treatment options for hypopharyngeal cancer may include one or more of the following, alone or in combination:

  • Surgery (with or without radiation therapy)
    • Endoscopic resection
    • Partial laryngectomy
    • Total laryngectomy
    • Laryngopharngectomy
    • Neck dissection
    • Laser surgery (new treatment)
    • Tracheostomy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy with pembrolizumab or nivolumab
  • Targeted therapy (for example, cetuximab)
  • Plastic surgery: replacement of major tissue removal

Clinical trials may be suggested by your doctors to join; these trials are ways to determine the effects of new treatments that may help address your hypopharyngeal cancer problem.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.