Head & Neck Cancer

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About Head & Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat, and lymph nodes in the neck. Most begin in the moist tissues that line the mouth, nose, and throat. Symptoms include

  • • A lump or sore that does not heal
  • • A sore throat that does not go away
  • • Trouble swallowing
  • • A change or hoarseness in the voice

Head and neck cancers are twice as common in men. Using tobacco or alcohol increases your risk. In fact, around 75 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use, including smoking and smokeless tobacco. Infection with HPV is a risk factor for some head and neck cancers.
To diagnose head and neck cancer, your doctor will do a physical exam and diagnostic tests. You will have a biopsy, where a sample of tissue is taken out and examined under a microscope. It is the only test that can tell for sure if you have cancer.

Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms

  • • Cancers of the head and neck are identified by the area in which they begin: the oral cavity, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx (voicebox), and lymph nodes in the neck. Cancers of the brain, eye, thyroid gland, scalp, skin, muscles, and bones of the head and neck are not usually grouped with cancers of the head and neck.
  • • The main causes of head and neck cancers include tobacco (smoked or chewed), and alcohol. Other risk factors are sun exposure, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, radiation to the head and neck, Asian ancestry, Epstein-Barr virus infection, exposure to wood dust or airborne asbestos, consumption of certain preservatives or salted foods, poor oral hygiene, and Plummer-Vinson (also called Paterson-Kelly) syndrome.
  • • Common symptoms of several head and neck cancer sites include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice. Symptoms may differ according to the part of the head or neck that is cancerous.
  • • Treatment for head and neck cancers depends on the exact location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, and the person's age and general health. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.