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Head and 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.

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

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