Pharyngeal Cancer

Staging

Once cancer of the pharynx is found, more tests will be done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging. A doctor needs to know the stage of the disease to plan treatment.

For Nasopharynx

Stage I
The cancer is in only one part of the nasopharynx and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area (lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body; they produce and store infection-fighting cells).

Stage II
The cancer is in more than one part of the nasopharynx and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area.

Stage III
Either of the following may be true:

  • The cancer has spread into the nose or to the part of the throat behind the mouth (the oropharynx).

  • The cancer is in the nasopharynx or has spread to the nose or the oropharynx. The cancer has spread to only one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer. The lymph node that contains cancer measures no more than 3 centimeters (just over one inch).

Stage IV
Any of the following may be true:

  • The nasopharynx cancer has spread to the bones or nerves in the head. The lymph nodes in the area may or may not contain cancer.

  • The cancer is in the nasopharynx or has spread to the nose, the nasopharynx, or the bone or nerves in the head. The cancer has spread to more than one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer, to lymph nodes on one or both sides of the neck, or to any lymph node which measures more than 6 centimeters (over 2 inches).

  • The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

For Oropharynx

Stage I
The oropharynx cancer is no more than 2 centimeters (about 1 inch) and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area (lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body; they produce and store infection-fighting cells).

Stage II
The oropharynx cancer is more than 2 centimeters, but less than 4 centimeters (less than 2 inches), and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area.

Stage III
Either of the following may be true:

  • The cancer is more than 4 centimeters.

  • The cancer is any size but has spread to only one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer. The lymph node that contains cancer measures no more than 3 centimeters (just over one inch).

Stage IV
Any of the following may be true:

  • The cancer has spread to tissues around the oropharynx. The lymph nodes in the area may or may not contain cancer.

  • The cancer is any size and has spread to more than one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the oropharynx cancer, to lymph nodes on one or both sides of the neck, or to any lymph node which measures more than 6 centimeters (over 2 inches).

  • The oropharynx cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

For Hypopharynx

Stage I
The cancer is in only one part of the hypopharynx and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area (lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body; they produce and store infection-fighting cells).

Stage II
The cancer is in more than one part of the hypopharynx or has spread to tissue next to the hypopharynx, but has not grown into the voice box (larynx). The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes in the area.

Stage III
Either of the following may be true:

  • The cancer is in more than one part of the hypopharynx or has spread to tissue next to the hypopharynx. The cancer has grown into the larynx.

  • The cancer is in the hypopharynx or has spread to the tissue around the hypopharynx. The cancer has spread to only one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer. The lymph node that contains hypopharynx cancer measures no more than 3 centimeters (just over one inch).

Stage IV
Any of the following may be true:

  • The hypopharynx cancer has spread to the connecting tissue or soft tissues of the neck. The lymph nodes in the area may or may not contain cancer.

  • The cancer is in the hypopharynx or has spread to the tissues around the hypopharynx. The cancer has spread to more than one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer, to lymph nodes on one or both sides of the neck, or to any lymph node that measures more than 6 centimeters (over 2 inches).

  • The hypopharynx cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

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