Cancer, Health

Head And Neck Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment



There are many different kinds of head and neck cancer, all of which usually start in the cells that line your mouth, throat, or voice box (larynx). Squamous cells are the name of these cells. Sinus or salivary gland cancers are less common forms of head and neck cancer.

The majority of head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, named after the cell that transforms into cancer.


  • Oral cancer: cancer that grows in the gums, lips, tongue, cheek lining, top and bottom of the mouth, or behind your wisdom teeth.
  • Cancer of the oral cavity: Oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the middle of your throat. The majority of cases of oropharyngeal cancer involve the tonsils.
  • Cancer of the hypopharynx: Cancer of the hypopharynx, which is at the bottom of your throat.
  • Cancer in the larynx: Cancer of your vocal cords in your voice box (larynx).
  • Cancer of the salivary glands: Cancer of the glands that produce saliva (spit) in your mouth.
  • Cancer of the paranasal and nasal cavities: Cancer that grows in the nasal cavity, which is the hollow space inside your nose, or in the paranasal sinuses, which are the hollow spaces between your bones.

Cancers of the head and neck can sometimes spread to the lymph nodes in your neck’s upper part.

Thyroid, esophageal, brain, and eye cancers are typically not considered head and neck cancers despite their locations. Treatments for them differ from those for head and neck cancer.


Because symptoms are frequently mild and can resemble less serious conditions like a cold or sore throat, head and neck cancer can be difficult to diagnose. The most common symptom of head and neck cancer is a persistent sore throat.


  • A persistent throat infection.
  • Frequent migraines.
  • Changes in voice or hoarseness.
  • Pain when you swallow or chew.
  • Your upper teeth are hurting.
  • Pain or numbness in the face.
  • Pain in the neck that won’t go away.
  • Difficulty speaking or breathing.
  • A lump in your neck, mouth, or throat.
  • Earaches or infections that persist.
  • Phlegm, bloody saliva, or nosebleeds.
  • A wound that does not heal on the tongue or mouth.
  • Antibiotic-resistant sinus infections that occur frequently.
  • A spot on your tongue, gums, or inside your mouth that is white or red.
    Swelling in your jaw, neck, or side of your face (which may make it difficult for your dentures to fit).
  • If you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away. You will need a thorough examination to be sure, but they could be signs of something less serious.


Men and people over the age of 50 are more likely to develop head and neck cancer. Other than age and gender, the most significant risk factors include HPV infections, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use. Some risk factors depend on the type of cancer.

  • Overindulging in alcohol: Overindulging in alcohol can raise your risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDP) recommends that men and people with AMAB drink no more than two drinks per day, and women and people with AFAB drink no more than one drink per day.
  • HPV (human papillomavirus): The incidence of HPV-related head and neck cancer is on the rise, particularly among younger adults. Oropharyngeal cancer is linked to HPV infection in up to 75% of cases.
  • A compromised immune system: Your body will have a difficult time-fighting cancer if your immune system is weak. HIV infection and recent major surgeries like organ or bone marrow transplants have been linked to cancer caused by a weakened immune system.
  • Workplace exposure to substances: Asbestos, pesticides, wood dust, paint fumes, and other substances linked to head and neck cancer may be present in your workplace.


Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are the three main treatments. Additionally, your healthcare provider may suggest you participate in a clinical trial or recommend new treatments like targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

  • Surgery: The tumor and some healthy tissue at its margin may be removed by surgeons. If the surgeon suspects that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in your neck, they may also remove them.
  • Therapeutic radiation: A machine that directs high-energy X-rays toward your tumor is the most common type of radiation for head and neck cancer (EBRT). Radiation can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments like surgery and chemotherapy. Additionally, radiation therapy may assist in relieving symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy: To eradicate cancer cells, chemotherapy employs either a single drug or a combination of drugs. Advanced stages of head and neck cancer are more likely to receive it.
  • Targeted treatment: Specific types of cancer are the focus of these drugs. When treating advanced head and neck cancers, they are typically used in conjunction with other treatments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval for the treatment of specific head and neck cancers for the drug cetuximab (Erbitux®).


  • It might be. Your healthcare provider has the best chance of curing your cancer if they treat it as soon as they discover it. Additionally, small tumors that have not spread may be cured.
  • The type of cancer you have, your age, your general health, and how well you respond to treatment all affect your outlook. Based on your individual cancer diagnosis, discuss your prognosis with your healthcare provider.

You may be interested in: Oral Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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