Hypopharyngeal cancers are any malignant growth found in hypopharynx, the bottom of the throat as it connects to the esophagus. The most common type of hypopharyngeal cancer is squamous cell cancer; other types include melanomas and lymphomas.
These are highly treatable if caught early, because of the location. It is important to be evaluated immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Lumps in the mouth or neck
- Ear pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Changes in speaking or breathing
No one knows why a malignant or cancerous growth begins to grow. However, there are certain risk factors for hypopharyngeal cancers. These may include:
- Exposure to cigarette smoke
- A history of smoking or chewing tobacco
- A history of alcohol abuse
To make a complete and accurate diagnosis, your doctor will perform the following:
- Medical history
- Physical examination.
- Complete exam on your mouth, nose, head, and face to determine the type and nature of the growth.
- Biopsy, which will help determine the kind of cancer, how aggressive it is, and the best way to treat it.
Different diagnostic studies may be ordered, including imaging studies, lab tests and detailed physical examinations. These may include:
- Endoscopy is used by your doctor to view the upper airways and inside the nostrils, the throat, and vocal cords. This is normally done by inserting a scope with a light and camera down the nose and throat.
- Panendoscopy includes direct laryngoscopy, (look at voice box), esophagoscopy, (esophagus), and bronchoscopy (bronchial tubes and lungs) to stage the tumor and look for additional tumors within these areas.
- CT scan
Treatment for hypopharyngeal cancer depends on when and where the cancer is found, as well as the type and grade of the tumor.
Hypopharyngeal cancers are treated with a combination of any of the following:
- Surgery may be recommended, but this is usually after chemotherapy and radiation.
After your surgery and completing chemotherapy and/or radiation, your doctor will want to monitor you closely to make sure the cancer has not reoccurred. The visits may be as frequently as once a month for the first year following treatment. These visits will typically consist of a physical examination, flexible endoscopy, a discussion of how you are feeling, and any diagnostic tests needed to determine your health.