Surgery for pharyngeal cancer
Pharyngeal cancers are treated differently depending on which part of the pharynx is affected. Surgery is used for many oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers. Nasopharyngeal cancers are usually treated with radiation therapy and rarely treated with surgery.
Small oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers can often be treated with minimally invasive surgery, sometimes followed by radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy. If the cancer is large or advanced and surgery is an option, it is more likely to be open surgery through a cut in the neck. If part of the jaw is removed, the jaw will be reconstructed. Surgery is often followed with radiation therapy and possibly chemotherapy.
Different types of pharyngeal surgery include:
- oropharyngectomy – removes some of the oropharynx (the part of the throat behind the mouth)
- hypopharyngectomy – removes part of the hypopharynx (the lower throat)
- laryngopharyngectomy – removes all of the larynx and most of the pharynx. This surgery is less common and is similar to a total laryngectomy.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; Dr Sophie Beaumont, Head of Dental Oncology, Dental Practitioner, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Bena Brown, Speech Pathologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Senior Research Fellow, Menzies School of Health Research, QLD; Dr Teresa Brown, Assistant Director, Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Lisa Castle-Burns, Head and Neck Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Ben Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, GenesisCare Rockhampton and Brisbane, QLD; Elaine Cook, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Dr Andrew Foreman, Specialist Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Tony Houey, Consumer; Dr Annette Lim, Medical Oncologist and Clinician Researcher – Head and Neck and Non-melanoma Skin Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Paula Macleod, Head, Neck and Thyroid Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Aoife McGarvey, Physiotherapist and Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner, Physio Living, Newcastle, NSW; Rick Pointon, Consumer; Teresa Simpson Senior Clinician, Psycho-Oncology Social Work Service, Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool Hospital, NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.