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Hypopharyngeal cancer: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About hypopharyngeal cancer

Hypopharyngeal cancer constitutes abnormal growth of the cells in the lower part of pharynx which is also called as hypopharynx. Pharynx is an area of the throat which extends from the back of nose to back of the voice box. Hypopharynx is the lowermost part of the pharynx that lies behind the voice box (larynx). Hypopharyngeal cancer mainly constitutes of squamous cells which are the flat cells of the epithelial lining of the hypopharyngeal tissue.

Hypopharyngeal cancer: Incidence, age and sex

Hypopharyngeal cancer is mainly seen in individuals of more than 50 years of age with an increased frequency in men as compared with women. Children are very seldom affected.

Signs and symptoms of hypopharyngeal cancer: Diagnosis

Most of the individuals with hypopharyngeal cancer are asymptomatic. However some individuals may present with vague features like sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, ear pain or hoarseness of voice. Sometimes, advanced stage of cancer may manifest as a lump in the neck. Other features include fever, loss of appetite and weight loss.

It is advisable to consult a specialist who will conduct a comprehensive physical examination to assess the growth and spread of cancer. The hypopharyngeal area may be directly viewed by an endoscope - a flexible tube inserted via the nostril. It also helps in taking a sample of the cancerous tissue to be studied under microscope later. Other investigations like CT MRI PET scan will also help in detecting the presence, location, grade and spread of the cancer.

Causes and prevention of hypopharyngeal cancer

The most common causes of hypopharyngeal cancer are smoking, chewing tobacco and/or consuming excess alcohol. Combined consumption of these things usually has a cumulative affect.

Hypopharyngeal cancer: Complications

Hypopharyngeal cancer is associated with complications like loss of voice if the cancer spreads to the voice box. Distant spread of cancer is usually seen in almost 25% of all affected individuals.

Hypopharyngeal cancer: Treatment

It is recommended to consult an otolaryngologist and an oncologist to discuss the effective management of hypopharyngeal cancer. The treatment plan depends upon the health status of affected individual and grade of cancer. The treatment modality constitutes combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Surgery may be considered in rare instances, when the cancerous tissue is easily approachable and removable. Cessation of smoking and alcohol is needed for an effective treatment of cancer. The prognosis of cancer depends upon the age of the individual and grade of cancer. However, hypopharyngeal cancer is considered to be lethal and does not have a very promising prognosis.