Pharyngeal Cancer (Throat Cancer)

The pharynx is a hollow tube about five inches long that starts behind the nose and leads to the upper food pipe (esophagus) and the upper windpipe (trachea).

The pharynx has three parts:

  • Nasopharynx: The nasopharynx, the upper part of the pharynx, is behind the nose.
  • Oropharynx: The oropharynx is the middle part of the pharynx. The oropharynx includes the back of the mouth (soft palate), the posterior third of the tongue (base of the tongue), and the tonsils.
  • Hypopharynx: The hypopharynx is the lower part of the pharynx and is the uppermost part of the food pipe (esophagus).
Dr. Arshad explains the link between HPV and head & neck cancers.

Throat Cancer Risk Factors

More than 13,000 throat cancers are diagnosed in the United States every year, affecting about three in every 100,000 Americans. The main risk factors for throat cancers are tobacco use and heavy drinking. Infection with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) is also a significant risk factor, especially for oropharyngeal cancers.

Throat Cancer Symptoms

  • A lump in the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing, or pain when swallowing
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Blood-tinged saliva
  • Double vision
  • Hearing loss in one ear

The chance of a cure in throat cancer patients is high when the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. Survival rates also vary by the location of the cancer. Overall, the five-year survival rate is over 65 percent for cancers of the oropharynx, and about 30 percent for cancers of the hypopharynx.