Head and neck cancer refers to a group of different cancers that usually begin in the moist surfaces inside the head and neck. These include cancers in the mouth, lips, throat, larynx (voice box), sinuses, and nasal passages.
Some of these cancers are easily detected in their early stages, often by dentists during routine exams. Others are found as a result of symptoms that last for longer than expected. Treatment for head and neck cancer will depend on the location of the cancer and its growth.
At Kaiser Permanente medical offices, surgeons, cancer specialists and your personal physician form a multi-disciplinary team. They will work with you to develop a treatment plan based on the most advanced research and technology. You’ll receive compassionate care and benefit from the latest advances in cancer treatment.
Cancer is the result of abnormal cells forming a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor. This is sometimes referred to as a malignancy. Most head and neck cancers begin in the cells covering the surfaces of the mouth, tongue, lips and throat.
The most common symptoms are a lump or sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal, an ongoing sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and a change in the voice or hoarseness. These symptoms also can be caused by other conditions, so see your doctor if you have any of these problems.
About 75 percent of head and neck cancers in the United States are caused by tobacco and alcohol use. Another risk factor is infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a sexually-transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer and other cancers. Head and neck cancers are twice as common in men as women, and are more likely to be diagnosed in people over age 50.
To learn more, see the National Cancer Institute: Head and Neck Cancers.