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Pharyngeal Cancer (Throat Cancer)

Cancer that forms in tissues of the pharynx (the hollow tube inside the neck that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the windpipe and esophagus). Cancer of the larynx (voice box) may also be included as a type of throat cancer.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Cancer of the Throat and Larynx

Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the nasopharynx (upper part of the throat behind the nose)....Read more about Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Oropharyngeal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth, including the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils)....Read more about Oropharyngeal Cancer

Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the hypopharynx (the bottom part of the throat)....Read more about Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Laryngeal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the larynx (area of the throat that contains the vocal cords and is used for breathing, swallowing, and talking)....Read more about Laryngeal Cancer

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Management of tumors arising from the parapharyngeal space: a systematic review of 1,293 cases reported over 25 years

OBJECTIVES: We present a systematic review of 1,252 lesions published in the past 25 years, the largest to date. We also include our own experience of 41 cases.

Biomarkers predicting malignant progression of laryngeal epithelial precursor lesions: a systematic review

Some laryngeal epithelial precursor lesions progress to invasive carcinoma and others do not. Routine light microscopic classification has limited value in predicting the evolution of these lesions. This article reviews the experience to date with the use of molecular markers for the prognostic evaluation of laryngeal epithelial precursor lesions. We conducted a thorough review of the published literature to identify those studies using biomarkers to predict malignant progression of laryngeal epithelial precursor lesions. Of the 336 studies identified in this systematic search, 15 met the inclusion criteria and form the basis of this review. Limited studies suggest that certain biomarkers are potentially reliable predictors of malignant progression including various regulators of cell adhesion and invasion (e.g. FAK, cortactin, osteopontin, and CD44v6) and proliferation-associated markers such as TGF-βRII and Kv3.4. The predictive value of these markers, however, has yet to be confirmed in large-scale prospective studies. Although the cell cycle-related proteins are the most frequently studied markers, none have been consistently reliable across multiple studies. The absence of standardization in methodologies, test interpretation, and other parameters may contribute to study inconsistencies. Various biomarkers have proved to have potential prognostic value and could be clinically relevant. The utility and prognostic power of these biomarkers should be confirmed in large, well-designed, standardized prospective studies.

Sentinel node biopsy in squamous cell cancer of the oral cavity and oral pharynx: a diagnostic meta-analysis

This review assessed the diagnostic performance of sentinel node biopsy in assessing the spread of oral and oropharyngeal cancer. The review was generally well conducted and clearly reported. However, the included studies were small and had a number of methodological flaws. The authors' conclusion, that sentinel node biopsy had shown high sensitivity in preliminary studies, is reasonable given the available data.

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Summaries for consumers

Interventions for the treatment of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer: radiotherapy

Oral cavity (mouth) cancer is usually detected earlier and treated with surgery and radiotherapy. Oropharyngeal (throat) cancer may be at an advanced stage when it is found and is treated with radiotherapy. Both surgery and radiotherapy may be associated with disfigurement and decreased ability to eat, drink and talk. Recent advances show that by altering how the radiotherapy is given to patients, improvements in overall survival can be achieved. The new methods of giving radiotherapy are called accelerated fractionation or hyperfractionation. However, they may be associated with an increase in side effects.

Chemotherapy for mouth and throat cancer

Oral cavity (mouth) cancer is usually detected earlier and treated with surgery and radiotherapy. Oropharyngeal (throat) cancer may be advanced when it is found and is treated with radiotherapy. Both treatments may be associated with disfigurement and decreased ability to eat, drink and talk. Treatment with chemotherapy (drugs which kill cancer cells), in addition to radiotherapy (and surgery where possible) offers prolonged survival. Chemotherapy given at the same time as radiotherapy, is more effective than chemotherapy given before radiotherapy, and may reduce the need for surgery. The improvement in overall survival with the use of chemotherapy is estimated to be between 8% and 22%. The additional side effects of combined chemoradiotherapy (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hair loss, and infections) were not measured.

Surgical interventions for the treatment of oral cavity (mouth) and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers

The studies in this review focused on patients with cancers in the oral cavity. These studies have not shown that surgery to remove the lymph nodes in the neck, which appear to be cancer‐free, at the same time as the cancer is removed is associated with longer survival, but there is evidence that early neck surgery reduces recurrence of the cancer. Neither is there evidence that removal of all the lymph nodes in the neck results in longer survival compared to selective surgical removal of affected lymph nodes. Although removal of lymph nodes from the neck is associated with significant adverse effects related to appearance and functions such as eating, drinking and speaking, the studies in this review did not measure quality of life.

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Terms to know

Esophagus
The muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach.
Hypopharynx
The bottom part of the throat.
Larynx (Voice Box)
The area of the throat containing the vocal cords and used for breathing, swallowing, and talking. Also called voice box.
Nasopharynx
The upper part of the throat behind the nose. An opening on each side of the nasopharynx leads into the ear.
Oropharynx
The part of the throat at the back of the mouth behind the oral cavity.
Pharynx (Throat)
The hollow tube inside the neck that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes to the stomach).
Trachea (Windpipe)
The airway that leads from the larynx (voice box) to the bronchi (large airways that lead to the lungs). Also called windpipe.

More about Pharyngeal Cancer

Photo of an adult

Also called: Malignant tumour of the pharynx, Cancer of the pharynx, Malignant tumor of the pharynx

Other terms to know: See all 7
Esophagus, Hypopharynx, Larynx (Voice Box)

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