Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer
Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers are tumors that grow in the lower part of the throat. The larynx is the voice box and helps us speak and also protects the windpipe and lungs during swallowing. The larynx contains the vocal cords. The hypopharynx is the part of the throat (pharynx) that beside and behind the larynx. The hypopharynx is the part of the throat that funnels food into the esophagus – the tube that connects the throat to the stomach.
Most of the cancers in this area are called squamous cell cancers because they come from the epithelium or the lining of the structures. The cells of the epithelium are squamous cells. The major risk factors for these factors are smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. These cancers are more common in men and in individuals older than 65. Reflux disease has also been shown in some studies to be a risk factor for cancer in these areas.
These cancers are usually detected by an endoscopy where your doctor places an endoscope through your nose to view the larynx and hypopharynx on a video monitor. They can also be detected during a swallowing x-ray or a CT scan. The cancer is diagnosed by a biopsy – this is usually performed in the operating room under a general anesthetic.
The treatment for a laryngeal or hyopharyngeal cancer may include surgery radiation therapy or chemotherapy depending on how large the tumor is and if it has spread to the lymph nodes or to other areas of your body.