Head and Neck Cancer

What Is Head And Neck Cancer ?

Head and Neck Cancer is the term used to describe a number of different cancerous tumors that develop in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses, and mouth.

Most head and neck cancer are squamous cell carcinomas. This type of cancer begins in the flat squamous cells that make up the thin layer of tissue on the surface of the structures in the Head and Neck. Directly beneath this lining, which is called the epithelium, some areas of the Head and Neck have a layer of moist tissue, called the mucosa.

Types Of Head And Neck Cancer

There are 5 main types of head and neck cancer, each named according to the part of the body where they develop.

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

Risk Factors ForHead And Neck Cancer

  • Men are 2 to 3 times more likely than women to develop head and neck cancer
  • Tobacco and alcohol consumption
  • Prolonged sun exposure, especially linked to cancer in the lip area, as well as skin cancer of the head and neck
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Exposure to EBV is mainly a risk factor for Nasopharyngeal cancer
  • Poor oral and dental hygiene
  • Weakened immune system

Symptoms OfHead And Neck Cancer

  • Swelling or a sore that does not heal
  • Red or white patch in the mouth
  • Lump or mass in the head or neck area, with or without pain
  • Foul mouth odor not explained by hygiene
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Nasal obstruction or persistent nasal congestion
  • Frequent nose bleeds and/or unusual nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Loosening of teeth, Dentures that no longer fit
  • Unexplained weight loss and Fatigue
  • Ear pain or infection


For the diagnosis and extent of the disease a set of investigations required would include

  • • Physical examination: a complete examination of the oral cavity and neck, feel for any lumps on the neck, lips, gums, and cheeks. The doctor will also inspect the nose, mouth, throat, and tongue for abnormalities, often using a light and a mirror for a clearer view.
  • Endoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET CT scan

Treatment For Head And Neck Cancer

Treatment usually involves a multidisciplinary approach to care for each patient. The treatment will be customised considering the location, extent of the disease and other patient related factors. The treatment would involve the following

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Therapies using medication
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy