Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer of the head and neck involves cancer that begins in the cells that line the moist surfaces of the nose, mouth and throat, including the lips, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, sinuses, nasal cavity and salivary glands. Cancer of the brain, eyes, esophagus and thyroid gland are generally not categorized as head or neck cancers. Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.

Specific types of head and neck cancer include:

  • Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer (throat cancer)
  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer
  • Oral and oropharyngeal cancer
  • Salivary gland cancer

Head and Neck Cancer Risk Factors

The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 53,640 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancers in the United States annually.

Risk factors include:

  • Having HPV (human papilloma virus)
  • Using tobacco (85 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use)
  • Drinking alcohol heavily
  • Having poor oral hygiene
  • Being exposed to occupational hazards like dust or certain chemicals
  • Having a family history of head or neck cancer
  • Having Epstein-Barr virus
  • Being male
  • Being over the age of 40

Signs & Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer can often be caught in its early stages because these areas can be easily seen and examined by your doctor during routine physicals. See your doctor if you experience:

  • A lump in the mouth or throat
  • White or red patches in the mouth
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Hoarseness when speaking
  • Persistent ringing in the ears
  • Chronic sinus infections that do not respond to treatment
  • Swelling around the jawbone
  • Paralysis of the face

Head and Neck Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

Regular dental screenings once or twice a year can help to detect head and neck cancer in its early stages. If you are at risk of developing this cancer due to tobacco use or other risk factors, annual physical exams by your doctor are recommended. Should you exhibit any of the above symptoms, your doctor may recommend any of the following tests:

  • CT-guided biopsy
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Nasoscopy
  • Upper GI series

Treatment for cancer of the head and neck will likely involve surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. 

Head and Neck Cancer Education, Screenings & Treatment at BayCare

BayCare is proud to offer a variety of cancer services throughout Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and all of Tampa Bay. Call (855) 314-8346 for a physician referral or find a doctor near you.