Throat (pharynx):  divided into nasopharynx (upper), oropharynx (middle) and hypopharynx (lower)

The throat (pharynx) includes 3 different parts that can be affected by cancer:

  • Nasopharynx (Upper throat) – the part of the throat that connects the back of the nose to the back of the mouth.
    • It’s one of the rarest types of head and neck cancer in the UK.
    • Risk factors include:
      • Southern Chinese or if you have an affected relative. 
      • Previous infection with the Epstein Barr virus, a common virus that causes glandular fever
      • People aged 40 years and over, and
      • Men are about three times more likely than women to get nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Oropharynx (Middle throat) – the middle part of the throat behind the mouth.  This area includes the base of tongue  (the part you cannot see), the soft part of the roof of the mouth (soft palate), the tonsils and the side walls of the throat to the tip of the voice box.
    • This is becoming the most common site of Head and Neck cancers due to the strong link with the human papilloma virus (HPV).
  • Hypopharynx (Lower throat) – the part of the throat connecting the oropharynx to the food pipe and the wind pipe. It is the lower part of the throat that surrounds the larynx and is also called the gullet.

The most common symptoms of cancer in the oropharynx or hypopharynx include a lump in the neck (often painless), a persistent sore throat and/or earache and difficulty swallowing.

Suggested additional sites that may offer helpful information:

HPV Oral Cancer Facts