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Pharyngeal cancer

Last updated: August 16, 2021

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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.


Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.


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.




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


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