Hypopharynx cancer has the worst prognosis of all head and neck squamous cell cancers. Since the 1990s, a treatment shift has appeared from a total laryngectomy towards organ preservation therapies. Large randomized trials evaluating treatment strategies for hypopharynx cancer, however, remain scarce, and frequently this malignancy is evaluated together with larynx cancer. Therefore, our aim was to determine trends in incidence, treatment and survival of hypopharynx cancer. We performed a population-based cohort study including all patients diagnosed with T1-T4 hypopharynx cancer between 1991 and 2010 in the Netherlands. Patients were recorded by the national cancer registry database and verified by a national pathology database. 2999 patients were identified. The incidence increased significantly with 4.1% per year until 1997 and decreased non-significantly afterwards. For women, the incidence increased with 1.7% per year during the entire study period. Total laryngectomy as primary treatment significantly decreased, whereas radiotherapy and chemoradiation increased. The 5-year overall survival significantly increased from 28% in 1991-2000 to 34% in 2001-2010. Overall survival for T3 was equal for total laryngectomy and (chemo)radiotherapy, but for T4-patients the survival was significantly better after primary total laryngectomy (± adjuvant radiotherapy). This large population-based study demonstrates a shift in treatment preference towards organ preservation therapies. The 5-year overall survival increased significantly in the second decade. The assumed equivalence of organ preservation and laryngectomy may require reconsideration for T4 disease.
Keywords: Chemoradiotherapy; Hypopharynx cancer; Radiotherapy; Survival; Total laryngectomy.