Hypopharyngeal cancer

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Cancerous tumours of the hypopharynx

A cancerous tumour of the hypopharynx can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancerous tumours are also called malignant tumours. The most common type of hypopharyngeal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). It accounts for more than 90% of cancers of the hypopharynx.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma starts in flat, thin cells called squamous cells. A layer of these cells (called the squamous epithelium) lines the hypopharynx. Squamous cell carcinoma most often starts in the pyriform sinus but sometimes starts in the posterior pharyngeal wall or the post-cricoid area.

Verrucous carcinoma is a type of SCC. It is low grade and rarely spreads to other parts of the body but can grow deep into nearby tissue.

Rare hypopharyngeal tumours

The following cancerous tumours of the hypopharynx are rare.

Minor salivary gland tumours start in the cells of the minor salivary glands. These are tiny glands in the lining of the hypopharynx. Types of minor salivary gland tumours include adenocarcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma and mucoepidermoid carcinoma. Find out more about cancerous tumours of the salivary glands.

Sarcoma starts in the cells of the connective tissue (cartilage). Types of sarcoma of the hypopharynx include chondrosarcoma and synovial sarcoma. Find out more about types of soft tissue sarcoma.

Melanoma usually starts in the skin but can start on the inner mucous surfaces of the body including in the hypopharynx. Find out more about melanoma.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma starts in lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell. Find out more about non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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