Head and neck cancers are those that arises in the head or neck region (in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat or larynx). Head and neck cancers are a very diverse group of cancers that can be very challenging in effective treatment due to the complicated anatomy present in this area of the body. Many of them arise as a result of the use of tobacco and alcohol, but can occur as a result of radiation exposure, human papilloma virus (HPV – the virus that causes warts), sun exposure and other causes. Head and neck cancers account for approximately 3 to 5 percent of all cancers in the United States. These cancers are more common in men and in people over age 50.
- A lump or sore that does not heal.
- A sore throat that does not go away.
- Persistent swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck.
- A lump or mass in the neck.
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
- Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue.
- A change or hoarseness in the voice.
- White or red patches on the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth.
- Changes in denture fit.
- Unexplained facial pain or persistent pain in the ear.
- Loss of smell.
- A bloody nasal discharge or coughing up blood.
- Persistent nasal congestion that does not improve.
Though these all may point to cancer, they also may be less serious conditions. Anyone with the above symptoms should consult their doctor or dentist.