What is hypopharyngeal cancer?

Hypopharyngeal cancer starts in the cells of the hypopharynx, which is part of the throat (pharynx). A cancerous (malignant) tumour is a group of cancer cells that can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Hypopharyngeal cancer is not common.

The hypopharynx is part of the pharynx (throat). The pharynx is part of the digestive and respiratory systems. It is divided into 3 parts. The nasopharynx is the top part. The oropharynx is the middle part. The hypopharynx is the bottom part. It connects the pharynx to the esophagus.

In some cases, changes to hypopharyngeal cells can cause hypopharyngeal cancer. Most often, hypopharyngeal cancer starts in the squamous cells that line the inside of the hypopharynx. This type of cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma of the hypopharynx.

Rare types of hypopharyngeal cancer can also develop. These include minor salivary gland carcinoma and sarcoma.

squamous cell

A type of epithelial cell that is thin and flat and looks like a fish scale.

Squamous cells are found in the epithelium that makes up the surface of the skin. They are in the epithelium lining of organs such as the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, anus, cervix and vagina. Squamous cells also make up the lining of blood vessels and hollow areas of the body (called cavities).