Head and neck cancers include cancers in the larynx, throat, lips, mouth, nose, and salivary glands. Tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) increase the risk of head and neck cancers. Explore the links on this page to learn more about the different types of head and neck cancer and how they are treated. We also have information about prevention, screening, research, clinical trials, and more.

The Head and Neck Cancers fact sheet has additional basic information.

Hypopharyngeal Cancer Treatment

  • Hypopharyngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the hypopharynx.
  • Use of tobacco products and heavy drinking can affect the risk of developing hypopharyngeal cancer.
  • Signs and symptoms of hypopharyngeal cancer include a sore throat and ear pain.
  • Tests that examine the throat and neck are used to help diagnose hypopharyngeal cancer and find out whether the cancer has spread.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

Hypopharyngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the hypopharynx.

The hypopharynx is the bottom part of the pharynx (throat). The pharynx is a hollow tube about 5 inches long that starts behind the nose, goes down the neck, and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach). Air and food pass through the pharynx on the way to the trachea or the esophagus.

Most hypopharyngeal cancers form in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the hypopharynx. The hypopharynx has 3 different areas. Cancer may be found in 1 or more of these areas.

Hypopharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.

Use of tobacco products and heavy drinking can affect the risk of developing hypopharyngeal cancer.

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors include the following:

  • Smoking tobacco.
  • Chewing tobacco.
  • Heavy alcohol use.
  • Eating a diet without enough nutrients.
  • Having Plummer-Vinson syndrome.

Laryngeal Cancer Treatment

  • Laryngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the larynx.
  • Use of tobacco products and drinking too much alcohol can affect the risk of laryngeal cancer.
  • Signs and symptoms of laryngeal cancer include a sore throat and ear pain.
  • Tests that examine the throat and neck are used to help diagnose and stage laryngeal cancer.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment

  • Lip and oral cavity cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lips or mouth.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use can affect the risk of lip and oral cavity cancer.
  • Signs of lip and oral cavity cancer include a sore or lump on the lips or in the mouth.
  • Tests that examine the mouth and throat are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage lip and oral cavity cancer.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

Lip and oral cavity cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lips or mouth.

The oral cavity includes the following:

  • The front two thirds of the tongue.
  • The gingiva (gums).
  • The buccal mucosa (the lining of the inside of the cheeks).
  • The floor (bottom) of the mouth under the tongue.
  • The hard palate (the roof of the mouth).
  • The retromolar trigone (the small area behind the wisdom teeth).

Most lip and oral cavity cancers start in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the lips and oral cavity. These are called squamous cell carcinomas. Cancer cells may spread into deeper tissue as the cancer grows. Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops in areas of leukoplakia (white patches of cells that do not rub off).

Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer with Occult Primary Treatment

  • Metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary is a disease in which squamous cell cancer spreads to lymph nodes in the neck and it is not known where the cancer first formed in the body.
  • Signs and symptoms of metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary include a lump or pain in the neck or throat.
  • Tests that examine the tissues of the neck, respiratory tract, and upper part of the digestive tract are used to detect (find) and diagnose metastatic squamous neck cancer and the primary tumor.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

Nasopharyngeal Cancer Treatment

The nasopharynx is the upper part of the pharynx (throat) behind the nose. The pharynx is a hollow tube about 5 inches long that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach). Air and food pass through the pharynx on the way to the trachea or the esophagus. The nostrils lead into the nasopharynx. An opening on each side of the nasopharynx leads into an ear. Nasopharyngeal cancer most commonly starts in the squamous cells that line the nasopharynx. Nasopharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.

Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer Treatment

Paranasal” means near the nose. The para sinuses are hollow, air-filled spaces in the bones around the nose. The sinuses are lined with cells that make mucus, which keeps the inside of the nose from drying out during breathing.

  • The frontal sinuses are in the lower forehead above the nose.
  • The maxillary sinuses are in the cheekbones on either side of the nose.
  • The ethmoid sinuses are beside the upper nose, between the eyes.
  • The sphenoid sinuses are behind the nose, in the center of the skull.

Nasal cavity

The nose opens into the nasal cavity, which is divided into two nasal passages. Air moves through these passages during breathing. The nasal cavity lies above the bone that forms the roof of the mouth and curves down at the back to join the throat. The area just inside the nostrils is called the nasal vestibule. A small area of special cells in the roof of each nasal passage sends signals to the brain to give the sense of smell.

Together the paranasal sinuses and the nasal cavity filter and warm the air, and make it moist before it goes into the lungs. The movement of air through the sinuses and other parts of the respiratory system help make sounds for talking.

Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.

Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment

The salivary glands make saliva and release it into the mouth. Saliva has enzymes that help digest food and antibodies that help protect against infections of the mouth and throat. There are 3 pairs of major salivary glands:

  • Parotid glands: These are the largest salivary glands and are found in front of and just below each ear. Most major salivary gland tumors begin in this gland.
  • Sublingual glands: These glands are found under the tongue in the floor of the mouth.
  • Submandibular glands: These glands are found below the jawbone.

There are also hundreds of small (minor) salivary glands lining parts of the mouth, nose, and larynx that can be seen only with a microscope. Most small salivary gland tumors begin in the palate (roof of the mouth).

More than half of all salivary gland tumors are benign (not cancerous) and do not spread to other tissues.

Salivary gland cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.

Oral Cavity, Pharyngeal, and Laryngeal Cancer Screening

  • Oral cavity, pharyngeal, and laryngeal cancer are diseases in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the mouth and throat.
  • The number of new cases of oral cavity, pharyngeal, and laryngeal cancer and the number of deaths from these cancers varies by race and sex.
  • Different factors increase or decrease the risk of oral cavity, pharyngeal, and laryngeal cancer.

 

 

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.