Pharyngeal cancer still presents an unsatisfactory mortality (30-40 per cent in most series, with a slightly better prognosis for nasopharyngeal cancer relative to both oropharyngeal and hypophyarngeal cancers) despite advances in treatment. Therefore, it is critical to know the clinical features of pharyngeal cancer. The purpose of this study was to investigate the most relevant clinical features of pharyngeal cancer (oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal, and nasopharyngeal) in order to improve knowledge of this malignancy with the aim of ameliorating diagnosis and treatment.
The retrospective study was based on a review of medical records from 258 consecutive patients with pharyngeal cancer (oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal and nasopharyngeal) diagnosed at La Paz University Hospital, Madrid, Spain, between January 1 1991 and and December 31 1995. Medical records were provided by the Departments of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Radiation Oncology, and Medical Oncology.
All medical records were analysed for the following clinical variables: 1) incidence, 2) sociodemographics, 3) sites (oropharynx, hypopharynx, nasopharynx) and subsites, 4) clinical and histological staging, 5) pathlogy, 6) presenting symptoms, 7) time to diagnosis, 8) patients’ general performance status at diagnosis, 9) personal cancer history and synchronous head and neck tumours, 10) premalignant lesions, and 11) paediatric cases.
Our most outstanding finding was the excessively long time that elapsed between first clinical manifestation appearance and conclusive diagnosis of pharyngeal cancer (4.7 months for pharynx, 4.5 for oropharynx, 4.4 for hypopharynx and 6.5 for nasopharynx cancers). It was found that nasopharyngeal cancer was quite different from both oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers with respect to its potential aetiology, risk factors and clinical presentation. In addition it has a better prognosis.