Head & Neck Cancer

Cancers of the head and neck can occur in multiple places including the mouth, throat, sinuses, and neck.

Head & Neck Cancer

Cancers of the head and neck can occur in multiple places including the mouth, throat, sinuses, and neck.

What are Head and Neck Cancers

Cancer refers to a condition in which the body’s cells grow out of control. Cancers of the head and neck can occur in multiple places, including the throat and head. This does not include brain cancers and cancers of the eyes.

Diagnosis, staging, and treatment vary by subsite. The most common subsites that your Century ENT physicians treat are:

  • Mouth – these are oral cavity and commonly start on the cheek, floor of mouth, and tongue
  • Nose and Sinuses – the space between the eye and under the brain.
  • Pharynx – starting in the back of your mouth down to the top of the esophagus
  • Larynx – commonly referred to as the voice box
  • Neck – lymph nodes in the neck
  • Skin – anywhere on the face, neck, or ears.

 

What are the Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer can cause these symptoms in the mouth:

  • A red or white sore that doesn’t heal on the gums or tongue or the lining of your mouth
  • The jaw may swell
  • Unusual bleeding or pain inside the mouth
  • A thickening or lump
  • Problem with dentures

Cancer can cause these symptoms at the back of your mouth (pharynx):

  • Trouble speaking or breathing
  • A thickening or lump
  • Problems chewing and swallowing
  • Feeling that something is stuck in your throat
  • The pain in your throat won’t stop
  • Trouble hearing or pain in the ears

Cancer can affect the voice box (larynx) and causes these symptoms:

  • Pain while swallowing
  • Ear pain

Cancer can occur in the nasal cavity and sinuses causing these symptoms:

  • Sinusitis that doesn’t clear
  • Sinus infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatment
  • Bleeding through your nose
  • Headaches
  • Eye pain and swelling
  • Upper teeth pain
  • Problem with dentures

 

Causes of Head and Neck Cancer

Alcohol, tobacco, and alcohol are both major risk factors for head and neck cancers. Head and neck cancer is linked to all tobacco products (cigars, pipes, and pipe tobacco), except for salivary gland cancers. Any type of alcohol such as beer, wine, or liquor can increase the risk of developing cancers in the throat, mouth, and voice box.

Human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted virus and is responsible for 70% of all cancers in the throat, which includes the tonsils and soft palate.

The major cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. This includes exposure to the sun and artificial UV rays such as tanning beds.

Exposure to certain substances on the job or occupational exposure can increase your risk of developing cancers in your nasopharynx. People can be exposed to chemicals such as formaldehyde and asbestos while working in the construction, textile, ceramic, and logging industries.

An infection with the Epstein–Barr virus, can increase the risk of developing cancers behind the nose and in the salivary glands.
Radiation treatments for the neck and head can lead to head and neck cancers.

Head and neck cancers affect twice as many women as men. People over 50 years old are more likely to have them diagnosed.

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