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Treatment Options for Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Different types of treatment are available for patients with hypopharyngeal cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Early hypopharyngeal cancer may be treated with surgery and/or radiation therapy. More advanced cancer may require a combination of treatments.

Your oncologist will recommend a treatment plan based on your stage, your general health, and whether the cancer has recurred. The recommended treatments may also change based on where the cancer is located to give the patient the best chance at keeping their ability to talk, eat, and breathe as normal as possible.

  • Surgery: removal of the tumor in the throat and/or lymph nodes or other tissue in the neck. The American Cancer Society lists several types of surgery options for treating hypopharyngeal cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: the use of anticancer medicines or drugs to shrink or kill cancerous cells and/or to reduce the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. The specific combination of medicines will depend on the location and stage of the disease as well as what works well for the patient.
  • Radiation therapy: the use of high-energy radiation to kill or shrink cancer cells. External beam radiation is the most common radiation therapy used to treat hypopharyngeal cancer.
  • Targeted therapy: a special type of systemic therapy, usually given in the same ways as chemotherapy. This type of therapy takes advantage of differences between normal cells and cancer cells, attacking only the cancerous cells, not the healthy ones. Currently, there is one targeted treatment (Cetuximab) approved for use in combination with radiation therapy for head and neck cancer that has not spread. Others are being tested in clinical research trials.
  • Immunotherapy: a treatment designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function.