Head and Neck

Head and Neck cancer is a general term that covers many different types of cancer, including mouth, laryngeal (voice box), throat (pharyngeal), salivary gland, nose and sinus, and nasopharyngeal.

These are relatively uncommon types of cancer.

Mouth cancer

Mouth cancer, or oral cancer, is the most common type of Head and Neck cancer. It can affect the lips, tongue, inside of cheeks, floor or roof of the mouth, and gums.

Symptoms

  • Mouth ulcers that are painful and don’t heal for weeks
  • Unexplained, persistent lumps in mouth or the neck
  • Unexplained loose teeth or sockets that do not heal following extraction
  • Unexplained, persistent numbness on lips or tongue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • White or red patches on lining of mouth or tongue
  • Changes in speech, such as a new lisp

You should see your GP or dentist if any of these symptoms persist for three weeks or more.

Treatment

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the location and stage of your cancer. The main treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemoradiotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted cancer drugs

Your treatment plan may have a combination of these.

Laryngeal (voice box) cancer

In the UK there are about 2,000 new cases of laryngeal cancer each year. It is most common in men aged 60 or over.

Symptoms

  • Change in voice, such as sounding hoarse
  • Difficulty or Pain when swallowing
  • Lump or swelling in the neck
  • Long-lasting cough
  • Persistent sore throat or earache
  • Difficulty breathing

You should see your GP if any of these symptoms persist for three weeks or more.

Treatment

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the location and stage of your cancer. The main treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemoradiotherapy
  • Targeted cancer drugs

Your treatment plan may have a combination of these.

Throat  (pharyngeal) cancer

Doctors don’t tend to use the phrase throat cancer as there are different structures and areas within the throat, such as: the oropharynx (back of the mouth); the hypopharynx (connects back of mouth to gullet and windpipe); and the nasopharynx (connects nose to back of mouth).

Symptoms

  • Difficulty or Pain when swallowing
  • Lump or swelling in the neck
  • Long-lasting sore throat

You should see your GP if any of these symptoms persist for three weeks or more.

Treatment

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the location and stage of your cancer. The main treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemoradiotherapy
  • Targeted cancer drugs

Your treatment plan may have a combination of these.

Salivary gland cancer

Salivary Gland cancer can start in any of the three glands that produce spit (parotid, sublingual and submandibular). This is an extremely rare type of cancer.

Symptoms

  • Lump or swelling near your jaw, in your mouth or neck
  • Numbness in a part of your face
  • Drooping or swelling on one side of your face
  • Problems swallowing
  • Difficulty opening your mouth fully

You should see your GP if you have any of these symptoms.

Treatment

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the location and stage of your cancer. The main treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy

Your treatment plan may have a combination of these.

Nose and sinus cancer

Nose and Sinus cancer affects the nasal cavity and sinuses. It is a rare form of cancer, mainly affecting men aged over 40.

Symptoms

  • Persistent blocked nose (usually only 1 side)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Mucus running from the nose or down throat

These symptoms are very similar to viral and bacterial infections, such as a cold or sinusitis. See your GP if you notice anything unusual or persistent. It will probably be nothing, but it is worth getting it checked out.

Later stage symptoms can include:

  • Pain or numbness in the face
  • Swollen glands in neck
  • Partial loss of vision or double vision
  • Bulging or persistently watery eye
  • Pain or pressure in 1 ear

Treatment

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the location and stage of your cancer. The main treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy

Your treatment plan may have a combination of these.

Nasopharyngeal cancer

Nasopharyngeal cancer affects the part of your throat connecting the back of your nose and the back of your mouth. It is a rare form of cancer, with 250 new cases each year.

Symptoms

  • A lump in your neck
  • Nosebleeds
  • Hearing loss (usually in 1 ear)
  • Ringing in your ears (Tinnitus)
  • Fluid in your ear
  • Blocked or stuffy nose

These symptoms are very similar to viral and bacterial infections. See your GP if you notice anything unusual or persistent. It will probably be nothing, but it is worth getting it checked out.

Treatment

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the location and stage of your cancer. The main treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemoradiotherapy

Your treatment plan may have a combination of these.

Support and more information available

NHS

Head and Neck cancer
Mouth cancer
Laryngeal cancer
Nose and Sinus cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer

 

Cancer Research UK

Head and Neck cancer
Mouth cancer
Laryngeal cancer
Troat cancer
Salivary Gland cancer
Nose and Sinus cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer

Macmillan

Head and Neck cancer
Mouth cancer
Laryngeal cancer
Troat cancer
Salivary Gland cancer
Nose and Sinus cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer

 

Get Ahead

Head and Neck Cancer Foundation

Head and Neck Cancer UK

Mouth Cancer Foundation

Oracle Cancer Trust

Throat Cancer Foundation