Lower Throat Cancer

Hypopharyngeal cancer happens when cancer cells form in your hypopharynx. If you've noticed changes in how you talk or breathe, or noticed a lump in your neck, you may be developing hypopharyngeal cancer.

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). Growing tumors in the hypopharynx can quickly affect how you speak, breathe, and swallow.

Hypopharyngeal Cancer Treatment

Three types of standard treatment are used:

  • Surgery
    • Laryngopharyngectomy (removes your voice box and throat lining)
    • Partial laryngopharyngectomy
    • Neck dissection (removes lymph nodes in your neck)
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy


Risk factors include the following:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Eating a diet without enough nutrients
  • Having Plummer-Vinson syndrome


These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by hypopharyngeal cancer or by other conditions:

  • A sore throat that does not go away
  • Ear pain
  • A lump in the neck
  • Painful or difficult swallowing
  • A change in voice


The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam of the throat
  • CT or CAT scan (computed tomography scan)
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Barium esophagogram
  • Endoscopy
  • Esophagoscopy 
  • Bronchoscopy 
  • Biopsy


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.