Hypopharyngeal Cancer: Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

Hypopharyngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant cells develop in the tissues of the hypopharynx, which is the bottom part of the pharynx. Air and food pass through the pharynx on the way to the trachea or the esophagus. Most hypopharyngeal cancers form in squamous cells that are the thin, flat cells inside of the hypopharynx. The hypopharynx has three different areas. Cancer may be found in one or more of these areas.

Hypopharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.

The incidence of hypopharyngeal cancer rises in people older than 40 years and it is rare in people younger than 30 years.

Causes

The
exact cause of hypopharyngeal cancer is not yet known. However, there are some
risk factors of developing hypopharyngeal cancer, which include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • People in older age
  • Inheriting DNA mutations
  • Having Plummer-Vinson syndrome
  • Eating a diet without enough nutrients

Symptoms

The
common symptoms and signs of hypopharyngeal cancer include:

  • Sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • A lump in the neck
  • Painful or difficult swallowing
  • Voice changes

Diagnosis

To
diagnose hypopharyngeal cancer, the following tests and procedures may be used:

  • CT scan. It is used to show detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly.

  • MRI. It uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed pictures of areas inside the mouth and neck.

  • Bone scan. It can check if there are cancer cells in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material will be injected into a vein and travel through the bloodstream.

  • PET scan. It is used to find malignant tumor cells in the body. In this test, a small amount of radioactive glucose is injected into a vein. The scanner makes computerized pictures of the areas inside the body. Malignant tumor will be highlighted on the pictures. A PET scan and CT scan may be done at the same time. This is called a PET-CT.

  • Barium esophagogram. In this test, the patient will drink a liquid that contains barium. The liquid coats the esophagus and then the doctor will perform X-rays.

  • Endoscopy. It is used to look at areas in the throat. An endoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth to check the throat for anything that seems abnormal.

  • Esophagoscopy. It looks inside the esophagus to check for abnormal areas. An esophagoscope is inserted through the mouth or nose and down the throat into the esophagus.

  • Bronchoscopy. It looks inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs.

  • Biopsy. In this test, affected cells or tissues will be removed so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

  • Blood tests. It is used to determine if the tumor has invaded nearby tissues or other organs in the body.

Treatment

There
are several treatment options for people with hypopharyngeal cancer.

  • Radiation Therapy

Radiation
therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other types of
radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Radiation therapy
involves 5-6 weeks of daily treatments. There are two types of
radiation therapy: external radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy.

  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy
uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used together
with radiotherapy as an alternative to surgery or used after surgery to
decrease the risk of the recurrence of the cancer.

  • Surgery

Surgery is a common treatment for all stages of hypopharyngeal cancer. In most cases, surgery is required if the tumor returns after chemoradiation therapy. It commonly involves several surgical procedures: laryngopharyngectomy, partial laryngopharyngectomy, partial laryngopharyngectomy and neck dissection.

Keywords:Hypopharyngeal cancer

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