Neck and throat cancers usually form in the squamous cells lining the inside of the mouth, nose, and throat. They are highly curable if detected early, and often respond well to surgery or radiation treatment.
Symptoms associated with neck and throat cancers seem harmless at first. It’s only when they persist that you usually have cause for worry.
Head and Neck Cancer Types
Cancers in this region are classified according to where they are located in the body. They include:
- Oral cavity. This region includes the lips, tongue, hard palate, gums, and mouth.
- Larynx. Comprised of the vocal cords and epiglottis.
- Pharynx. There are three sections of the throat: the nasopharynx (the upper portion, located behind the nose), oropharynx (the middle section, which includes the soft palate and tonsils), and hypopharynx (the lower portion).
- Paranasal sinuses. The nasal cavity.
- Salivary glands. Located the bottom of the mouth near the jawbone.
Other types of cancers in close proximity, like brain tumors and thyroid cancer, behave very differently and are not considered cancers of the neck and throat.
What To Look For
Often, symptoms associated with neck and throat cancers seem harmless at first. It’s only when they persist that you usually have cause for worry. Signs include swollen nymph nodes, a lump or sore that doesn’t heal, hoarseness, throat or neck pain, bleeding from the mouth, bad breath, earache, sore throat, mouth sores, sinus congestion, difficulty swallowing, and weight loss.
Causes of Cancer
The majority of neck and throat cancers are caused by tobacco use; smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco both substantially increase your risk of cancer. Alcohol use, especially in people who also smoke, is another contributing factor. Exposure to industrial toxins, a diet high in red meats and processed foods, human papillomavirus (HPV), Epstein-Barr virus, and acid reflux can all add to your risk.
As with all cancers, treatment depends upon the size and location of the tumor, whether it has spread to other areas, and the overall health of the patient. Surgery and radiation therapy tend to be most effective against neck and throat cancers. Other options include chemotherapy or targeted therapy. Treatment sometimes consists of a combination of methods.