Hypopharyngeal cancer

Overview

Hypopharyngeal cancer grows in the hypopharynx at the bottom of the throat, just above the point where the esophagus and trachea begin. The malignancy typically forms in the thin squamous cells that line the hypopharynx. It’s found in one or more of the hypopharynx’s three parts:

  • Piriform sinus
  • Postcricoid area
  • Posterior pharyngeal wall

Our approach

Getting diagnosed with hypopharyngeal cancer can quickly become overwhelming without the right care — the disease is challenging to treat and can involve difficult choices between preserving normal swallowing and keeping full use of the voice.

A Team of Cancer Institute Experts Coordinating Care 

The multidisciplinary team of experts confers each week to discuss their cases, bringing together different specialties from across the Northwell Health and ensuring that each patient receives the most advanced, appropriate treatment options. An ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist, or ENT) will lead care, but the multidisciplinary team includes other experienced members.

Risk factors

Risk factors for hypopharyngeal cancer include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy drinking
  • Eating a diet that doesn’t have the right nutrients
  • Plummer-Vinson syndrome: A condition that makes swallowing difficult and is caused by anemia from a lack of iron

Diagnosis

A doctor will use diagnostic tools and techniques to identify hypopharyngeal cancer, including:

  • Throat and neck exam - Feeling for swollen lymph nodes and looking down the throat for abnormalities
  • Biopsy - Removing cells or tissue and examining them with a microscope
  • Endoscopy - Inserting a thin tube and camera to look even farther down the esophagus, with a possible biopsy
  • Esophagoscopy - Inserting a special tool, an esophagoscope, to look down the esophagus
  • Bronchoscopy - Inserting another tool, a bronchoscope, to look at the trachea and lungs
  • CT (CAT) scan - Putting together X-rays from different angles, with dye sometimes injected into veins or swallowed
  • PET scan - Injecting glucose (sugar) into the veins and using a rotating scanner to look for malignant cells
  • MRI - Using a magnet, radio waves and a computer to take detailed pictures of the inside of the body
  • Bone scan - Injecting a tiny amount of radioactive material into the veins to look for rapidly dividing cancer cells
  • Barium esophagogram - X-raying the esophagus after the patient drinks a liquid with barium

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