Overview of Hypopharynx Tumors

The hypopharynx is located behind and below the oropharynx. It is not visible by routine office examination. The area consists of three subsites: the pyriform sinuses; the posterior pharyngeal wall, and the postcricoid area.

About 70 percent of all hypopharyngeal lesions are found in the pyriform sinuses, followed by the posterior pharyngeal wall (about 25 percent) and the postcricoid area (about 5 percent). Overall, approximately 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, with the majority occurring in men.

Pathologically, the majority of these cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. They generally behave in an aggressive fashion, with diffuse local spread, early metastasis to lymph nodes and a relatively high rate of distant spread (metastasis).

Hypopharynx Cancer Staging

Unfortunately, the staging system for the hypopharyngeal cancers is not adequate and has several limitations in its use. Therefore, unlike most other cancers discussed in this site, no tumor, node, metastasis (TNM) staging system will be presented here. It is advisable for anyone confronting hypopharyngeal cancer to discuss his or her condition thoroughly and carefully with a physician regarding stage and prognosis.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015