Cancers of the head and neck are defined as those that affect the throat, lips, tongue, larynx, nasal cavity, and salivary gland. Most of these are squamous cell carcinomas that develop in the mucosal surfaces of the head and neck. Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every year.

Cancers of the Head & Neck

There are different classifications of head and neck cancers, depending on the part of the body where they develop. These include:

  • Pharynx/throat.
  • Larynx (voicebox).
  • Oral cavity (mouth, lips, tongue, and gums).
  • Nasal cavity.
  • Salivary glands.

Cancers that form in the brain, esophagus, or thyroid – while technically in the head and neck region – are categorized differently because their behavior is unique.

Symptoms of Head & Neck Cancers

Often, the symptoms associated with head and neck cancers seem minor at first. You may experience a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and hoarseness. In less serious conditions, these symptoms usually disappear on their own after a week or two; when cancer is the cause, they tend to persist without getting better. Other signs to watch for include a sore that doesn’t heal, bleeding from the mouth, swelling of the jaw, congestion and stuffiness, a sinus infection that doesn’t clear up with treatment, headaches, earaches, facial numbness and paralysis, swollen lymph nodes, and unexplained weight loss.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends upon the size and location of the tumor, its stage, and your overall health. Options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of methods.