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Head and Neck Cancer

A diagnosis of head and neck cancer is a life-changing event. Many people find that learning more about the details of their cancer type and treatment gives them a feeling of empowerment and helps them cope with the changes that follow a cancer diagnosis. This section of the Head & Neck Cancer Guide includes detailed articles about specific cancer types categorized by the location of the primary tumor.

What is head and neck cancer?

Cancer can occur when abnormal cells grow and spread quickly, forming a mass called a tumor. Tumors can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Sometimes cancer cells break away from the original tumor and travel to other areas of the body, where they keep growing and go on to form new tumors. This is called metastasis.

Cancer can occur in any tissue or organ in the head and neck. Head and neck cancer is a term used to describe a range of malignant tumors that can appear in the mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), nose, sinuses and around the eyes.

Cancers are treated according to the location of the primary tumor, or where the cancer started in the body. It is important to know the exact medical name of the cancer you have so you can find the right information. The treatment for sinus cancer is not the same as for oropharyngeal cancer, for example. If you are not sure what your cancer is called, you can ask your doctor or nurse to write it down for you.

You have to go through your journey and wait to see what’s going to happen. Don’t read something and then say, “It’s over, it’s the end,” because that’s not necessarily the case.Tony L. (oral cancer survivor)

Navigating head and neck cancer types

This section of the Head & Neck Cancer Guide includes detailed articles about specific cancer types categorized by the location of the primary tumor. Each article includes information about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, doctor visits, diagnosis, cancer types, tumor grade, staging, treatment, prognosis and life after treatment.

Oral Cancers

Oral cancer is also known as mouth cancer. Mouth cancers typically start as a lump, bump or patch in the mouth (these are called “lesions”). Learn about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more in this article about cancer in the oral cavity.

Salivary Gland Cancer

Salivary gland cancers begin in the salivary glands of your mouth, cheek, neck or throat. Learn about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more in this article about cancer in the major salivary glands.

Throat Cancers

Throat cancers include the nasopharynx located behind the nose, the oropharynx (which includes the tonsils and base of tongue), as well as the voice box and the inlet to the esophagus. Learn about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more in this overview of cancers of the throat.

Neck Cancers

Neck cancers are usually due to cancer cells that have spread into lymph nodes within the neck from a different primary tumor site, or they could be lymphomas and sarcomas that begin in the neck. Learn about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more in this overview of cancer of the neck.

Nose and Sinus Cancers

This section covers cancers inside of the nose (the nasal cavity) and the paranasal sinuses (air-filled spaces in the head around the nasal cavity). These are called sinonasal cancers. Learn about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more in this overview of cancer in the nose and sinuses.

Orbital Tumors

Orbital tumors are those that involve the eye socket (everything inside the eye socket except the eyeball itself). Learn about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more in this article about cancer in the orbit of the eye.

Skin Cancer

There are a number of different types of skin cancers. The two main types are melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Learn about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more in this article about skin cancers.

Distant Metastasis

Distant metastases in head and neck cancer are defined as tumor cells that arise from a primary tumor in the head and neck and then spread to a location outside of the head and neck. Learn about anatomy, causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more in this article about cancer that has spread to distant locations in the body.