Superficial extending carcinoma of the hypopharynx: Report of 26 cases of an underestimated carcinoma


  • From the Department of Pathology, Istituto Scientifico per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, V.le Benedetto XV, 10 16132, Genova, Italy and the Departments of Pathology and Head and Neck Surgery, Institut Gustave-Roussy, Villejuif, France.


Advanced ulcerating and infiltrating tumors are commonly found in the hypopharynx, whereas early well-defined lesions are rarely diagnosed.

The pathologic reports of 242 uniformly studied surgical specimens after total pharyngolaryngectomy for cancer of the hypo-pharynx were reviewed. The histologic analysis of 26 cancers (10.7%), which were recorded as having an entire or predominant superficial type of spreading, demonstrated that also in the hypopharynx a “superficial extending carcinoma” (SEC) may occur.

SEC of hypopharynx was pathologically defined as a poorly or moderately differentiated squamous cell carcinoma, generally located in the pyriform sinus, which spreads superficially. It was limited to the mucosa (2.9%), but more frequently early infiltrated the underlying muscle or gland structures (6.2%), regardless of the presence of lymph node metastases or lymph vessels invasion.

Although the concept that SEC of the hypopharynx may be an expression of a generalized disease of the mucosa must be carefully considered in surgical management, it appeared that this carcinoma in its “pure” intramucosal form may be associated with a good prognosis and a long survival.