What is Hypopharyngeal cancer?

The hypopharynx is a type of throat cancer in the lowermost part of the throat (pharynx). More than 95% cases of all hypopharyngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, that originate in the epithelium of the hypopharyngeal mucosa.

How does hypopharyngeal cancer grow/spread?

In hypopharyngeal cancer, mucosal lesions are formed first due to genetic damage to cells lining the hypopharynx area. These eventually evolve into rapidly dividing (hyper-proliferative) lesions which can grow in size, invade local structures, and invade the lymphatic system in order to spread to regional lymph nodes. These hyper-proliferative lesions can also invade blood vessels (the vascular system) and thereby spread (metastasize) to other organs in the body.

Hypopharyngeal cancer can spread into the thyroid cartilage, the thyroid glands, the larynx (voice box) the windpipe (trachea), or the food pipe. Regionally, it can spread into the neck’s lymph nodes while the lung is the common site for distant spread.

Anatomy of the pharynx

The pharynx is a nearly 5-inch long hollow tube that originates behind the nose, travels down the neck, and ends at the top of the windpipe and the food pipe.

The pharynx consists of:

  • The nasopharynx
  • The oropharynx
  • The hypopharynx

Anatomy of the hypopharynx

The hypopharynx is the longest part of the throat. It starts wide, and gradually narrows down as we approach the cricopharyngeal muscle. The posterior face of the cricoid cartilage forms the anterior boundary of the hypopharynx. Pyriform sinuses (also known as fossae) are the parts of the hypopharynx that lie partly on each side of the larynx.

Read more on the types of throat cancer here

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