Head and Neck Cancer is a group of cancers that starts in the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, sinuses, or salivary glands. Symptoms for head and neck cancer may include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, trouble swallowing, or a change in the voice. There may also be unusual bleeding, facial swelling, or trouble breathing.
About 75% of head and neck cancer is caused by the use of alcohol or tobacco. Other risk factors include betel quid, certain types of human papillomavirus, radiation exposure, certain workplace exposures, and Epstein-Barr virus. Head and neck cancers are most commonly of the squamous cell carcinoma type. The diagnosis is confirmed by tissue biopsy. The degree of spread may be determined by medical imaging and blood tests.
Not using tobacco or alcohol can reduce the risk for head and neck cancer. While screening in the general population does not appear to be useful, screening high risk groups by examination of the throat might be useful. Head and neck cancer often is curable if it is diagnosed early; however, outcomes are typically poor if it is diagnosed late. Treatment may include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Following treatment of one head and neck cancer, people are at higher risk of a second cancer.
In 2015, head and neck cancers globally affected more than 5.5 million people (mouth 2.4 million, throat 1.7 million, and larynx 1.4 million), and it has caused over 379,000 deaths (mouth 146,000, throat 127,400, larynx 105,900). Together, they are the seventh most frequent cancer and the ninth-most-frequent cause of death from cancer. In the United States, about 1% of people are affected at some point in their life, and males are affected twice as often as females. The usual age at diagnosis is between 55 and 65 years old. The average 5 year survival following diagnosis in the developed world is 42-64.