The hypopharynx is the part of the neck that extends from the back of the tongue down to become the
food pipe (oesophagus) and the voice box (larynx).
It is a rare cancer that grows silently before you get symptoms. By the time of diagnosis, about 10% have
cancer spread to other organs. 70% have involvement of the oesophagus and larynx.
Who are affected?
Affects men more than women aged 50-70 years usually but may occur earlier in few cases
Smoking or chewing tobacco.
Heavy alcohol use.
Eating a diet without enough nutrients.
Genetic factors where a certain gene i.e. p53 is unable to protect you from developing cancer.
Occupational exposure to chemical and fumes such as smoke from welding.
Exposure to Human Papilloma Virus, found in the female genitalia acquired through oral sex.
Non-specific sore throat
Discomfort while swallowing food or painful swallowing
A swelling in the neck
Bad breath and dental caries
Scratchy voice or muffled voice
Pain in the ear
It can spread to involve the back of the tongue or the structures around the voice box or the thyroid
gland or the tissues at the back of the hypopharynx. It can spread to the oesophagus or larynx. Some
patients may have swellings in the neck. Lungs, liver, bones and brain may be affected.
Your doctor will take a history of the symptoms and risk factors. He/she will then examine your mouth,
back of the mouth using a mirror or a scope and look for swellings in your neck
To check for possible spread to other organs, your doctor will order blood investigations like a full blood
count, kidney function tests, liver function tests. Other investigations may be a chest x-ray, CT scan of
the neck and chest, and abdominal ultrasound scan. Samples from the swellings in the neck or from the
mass in the hypopharynx may be taken to help confirm the diagnosis
Involves surgery or chemo-radiotherapy