Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
You or someone you care about may have been diagnosed with head and neck cancer.
This video will help you understand more about this type of cancer and how it affects the body.
Cancer of the head and neck may develop in certain areas, such as your sinuses, which are hollow spaces in the bones of your head around your nose,
your nasal cavity
your mouth, also known as your oral cavity
your throat, also known as your pharynx
your voicebox, also known as your larynx
and your salivary glands, which are organs that help you digest food.
The cells lining most of these structures are called squamous cells.
The most common type of head and neck cancer, called squamous cell carcinoma, begins in these cells.
Here, normal cells change into abnormal cells, called cancer cells.
Over time, these cells can grow out of control and form a cluster, called a tumor.
These tumors can grow and spread, destroying healthy tissue.
Symptoms for head and neck cancer vary, depending on the location of the cancer. In general, symptoms may include…
a sore that doesn't heal
a lump that doesn't go away
a sore throat that doesn't go away
pain or trouble swallowing
hoarseness or change in your voice
and trouble breathing
Other health problems may cause these symptoms.
It's important to see your doctor to be sure.
If you have head and neck cancer, your doctor will try to find out the extent of the disease and if it has spread.
This is called staging.
The stages of cancer range from zero to four. A lower stage means less cancer growth.
A higher stage means more cancer growth.
The two main risk factors for head and neck cancer are alcohol and tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco.
Other risk factors include infection with certain viruses, such as human papillomavirus or Epstein-Barr virus,
exposure to certain workplace substances,
and past radiation therapy of the head and neck.
If you are dealing with a diagnosis of head and neck cancer, continue to talk to your doctor and your cancer care team.