What is it?

Nasopharyngeal cancer and hypopharyngeal cancer are similar diagnoses that can affect the throat. However, each condition develops in a different part of the throat, produces unique symptoms and requires a different approach to treatment. Nasopharyngeal cancer develops in the nasopharynx – the top portion of the throat behind the nose, while hypopharyngeal cancer develops in the hypopharynx – the bottom portion of the throat behind the larynx (also considered the entrance to the esophagus). Both conditions can spread to the esophagus, thyroid gland, trachea, larynx or lymph nodes in the neck.

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Malignant Neoplasm of Nasopharynx Hypopharynx.

Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Nasophrynx & Hypopharynx Cancer

Signs & symptoms

The most common symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer are nasal congestion, frequent nose bleeding, recurrent ear infections and blood in the saliva. The most common symptoms of hypopharyngeal cancer, on the other hand, are a sore throat and difficulty swallowing. Both conditions can lead to swollen lymph nodes in the neck, which can be felt when touching the tender area behind the jaw.


Tests and procedures that are used to diagnose hypopharyngeal or nasopharyngeal cancer include:
- Endoscopy: This procedure uses a thin, lighted tube that is inserted into the nose or mouth to check for anything unusual.
- Physical exam: Doctors check for swollen lymph nodes in the neck and look down the throat with a small mirror to check for anything unusual.
- CT scan: This scan takes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The images are created by a computer that is linked to an X-ray machine.
- MRI: This procedure uses radio waves and a powerful magnet, linked to a computer, to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
- PET scan: This procedure is an imaging test that helps reveal how metabolically active your body tissues are. The test checks all areas of the body for hypermetabolic tissues, which usually mean they are involved with cancer or infection.
Esophagoscopy: This procedure looks inside the esophagus to check for unusual areas. An esophagoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus. Tissue samples might be taken for biopsy. This is usually done under general anesthesia or heavy sedation.
Biopsy: In this procedure, tissue samples are removed and viewed under a microscope to determine if cancer is present.


Oncologists may recommend surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or any combination of the three for patients with nasopharyngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer. However, the exact approach to treatment tends to be different for each condition.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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