Trusted medical expertise in seconds.

Access 1,000+ clinical and preclinical articles. Find answers fast with the high-powered search feature and clinical tools.

Try free for 5 days
Evidence-based content, created and peer-reviewed by physicians. Read the disclaimer.

Pharyngeal cancer

Last updated: August 16, 2021

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Pharyngeal cancers include all malignant tumors arising in the nasopharynx, oropharynx, hypopharynx, and tonsils.These cancers are most commonly squamous cell carcinomas. Alcohol and tobacco use are the two most important risk factors and are responsible for the majority of cases. Other risk factors include certain viral infections, poor oral hygiene, and workplace-related exposures, such as radiation. The clinical presentation depends on the location of the tumor. Symptoms may include a growing cervical lump, persistent sore throat, dysphagia, or a change in voice. Diagnosis is confirmed based on tissue biopsy, whereas the extent of spread is determined via imaging modalities like CT or MRI. Treatment usually requires a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

References:[1][2][3][4][5]

Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

References:[6][7]

Pharyngeal cancer is usually asymptomatic for a long time. . Ofen, the first manifestations are swollen cervical lymph nodes.

Nasopharyngeal cancer

Oropharyngeal cancer and hypopharyngeal cancer

Tonsillar cancer

Metastatic disease

  • See “Clinical features” in Oral cavity cancer above.

References:[6][8][9]

References:[6][6][8]

References:[10]

  • Poor prognosis since tumors are commonly discovered in late stages
  • 5-year survival rate 64%

References:[3][6]

  1. Quon H. Hypopharyngeal Cancer. Hypopharyngeal Cancer. New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1375268-overview. Updated: April 2, 2015. Accessed: March 6, 2017.
  2. Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer. http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/oral-and-oropharyngeal-cancer/statistics. Updated: July 1, 2016. Accessed: March 6, 2017.
  3. Cancer Stat Facts: Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/oralcav.html. Updated: March 6, 2017. Accessed: March 6, 2017.
  4. What Are the Key Statistics About Nasopharyngeal Cancer?. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/nasopharyngeal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Updated: August 8, 2016. Accessed: March 6, 2017.
  5. Hui EP, Chan ATC. Epidemiology, etiology, and diagnosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/epidemiology-etiology-and-diagnosis-of-nasopharyngeal-carcinoma.Last updated: May 5, 2016. Accessed: March 6, 2017.
  6. Williams NS, Bulstrode C, O'Connell PR. Bailey & Love's Short Practice of Surgery. CRC Press ; 2013
  7. de Virgilio C, Frank PN, Grigorian A. Surgery: A Case Based Clinical Review. Springer ; 2015
  8. Brunicardi F, Andersen D, Billiar T, et al.. Schwartz's Principles of Surgery. McGraw-Hill Education ; 2014
  9. Pestana C. Dr. Pestana's Surgery Notes: Top 180 Vignettes for the Surgical Wards. Kaplan ; 2015
  10. Stevenson MM. Pharyngeal Cancer Treatment Protocols . Pharyngeal Cancer Treatment Protocols . New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2047780-overview. Updated: February 29, 2016. Accessed: February 16, 2017.
  11. Sim CQ. Cancers of the Oral Mucosa. In: Elston DM, Cancers of the Oral Mucosa. New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1075729. Updated: June 29, 2017. Accessed: July 4, 2017.
  12. Kokot N. Malignant Tonsil Tumor Surgery. In: Meyers AD, Malignant Tonsil Tumor Surgery. New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/848034. Updated: March 16, 2016. Accessed: February 16, 2017.
  13. What Are the Key Statistics About Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers?. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Updated: January 6, 2017. Accessed: February 16, 2017.
  14. Treatment Options for Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer by Stage. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer/treating/by-stage.html. Updated: March 2, 2017. Accessed: July 4, 2017.