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.
If found early, these cancers are often curable. Treatments may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination. Treatments can affect eating, speaking or even breathing, so patients may need rehabilitation.
NIH: National Cancer Institute
- Head and Neck Cancer: Symptoms and Signs (American Society of Clinical Oncology)
- Cigar Smoking and Cancer (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Difficulty Chewing (American Society of Clinical Oncology) Also in Spanish
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Oropharyngeal Cancer (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation (PDQ) (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (American Society of Clinical Oncology)
- General Information about Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer with Occult Primary (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Head and Neck Neoplasms (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Concurrent cisplatin or cetuximab with radiotherapy in patients with locally advanced...
- Article: Effect of Selenium on Incidence and Severity of Mucositis during Radiotherapy...
- Article: Low-cost oral metronomic chemotherapy versus intravenous cisplatin in patients with recurrent,...
- Head and Neck Cancer -- see more articles
- Ear,nose, and tracheal cancers -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery
- American Cancer Society
- Find a Cancer Doctor (American Society of Clinical Oncology)
- Find an ENT (American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery)
- National Cancer Institute Also in Spanish
- NCI Designated Cancer Centers (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Organizations That Offer Support Services (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Childhood Esthesioneuroblastoma Treatment Also in Spanish
- Childhood Laryngeal Tumors Treatment (PDQ)-Patient Version Also in Spanish
- Childhood Midline Tract Carcinoma with NUT Gene Changes Treatment
- Childhood Nasopharyngeal Cancer Treatment Also in Spanish
- Childhood Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment
- Childhood Salivary Gland Tumors Treatment
- Childhood Thyroid Cancer Treatment
- After chemotherapy - discharge (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Glomus jugulare tumor (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Mouth and neck radiation - discharge (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Neck dissection (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Neck dissection - discharge (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Swallowing problems (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish