Head and Neck cancer



Head and neck cancers include cancers in the larynx, throat, lips, mouth, nose, and salivary glands. Tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) increase the risk of head and neck cancers

This type of cancer begins in the flat squamous cells that make up the thin layer of tissue on the surface of the structures in the head and neck. Directly beneath this lining, which is called the epithelium, some areas of the head and neck have a layer of moist tissue, called the mucosa. If a cancer is only found in the squamous layer of cells, it is called carcinoma in situ. If the cancer has grown beyond this cell layer and moved into the deeper tissue, then it is called invasive squamous cell carcinoma.


  • A lump in the nose, neck, or throat, with or without pain
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent coughing
  • Change in voice or hoarseness
  • Ear pain or trouble hearing
  • Headaches
  • A red or white patch in the mouth
  • Bad breath that is unexplained by hygiene
  • Nasal obstruction or persistent congestion
  • Frequent nose bleeds or unusual discharge
  • Trouble breathing

Risk factors

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Certain illnesses
  • Sun exposure
  • Radiation therapy
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Vaping


  • Hypopharyngeal cancer
  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer
  • Salivary gland cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
  • Tonsil cancer 


T (tumor): This refers to the size of the primary tumor and to which, if any, tissues in the oral cavity and oropharynx the cancer has spread.

N (node): This describes the involvement of lymph nodes near the primary tumor. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped clusters of immune system cells that are key to fighting infections and are usually one of the first sites in the body to which cancer spreads.

M (metastasis): This indicates whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other areas of the body. With oral cancer, the most common site of metastases is the lungs, followed by the liver and bones.

Stage 0: The tumor is only growing in the part of the head and neck where it started.

Stage I (stage 1 head and neck cancer): The primary tumor is 2 cm across or smaller, and no cancer cells are present in nearby structures.

Stage II (stage 2 head and neck cancer): The head and neck tumor measures 2-4 cm across, and no cancer cells are present in nearby structures.

Stage III (stage 3 head and neck cancer): It is larger than 4 cm across, and no cancer cells are present in nearby structures, lymph nodes or distant sites.

Stage IVA:

The head and neck cancer tumor are any size and is growing into nearby structures, which is located on the same side of the head or neck as the primary tumor and is smaller than 3 cm across. Cancer has not spread to distant sites.

Stage IVB: The tumor has invaded deeper areas and/or tissues. It may or may not have spread to lymph nodes and has not spread to distant sites.

The tumor is any size and may or may not have grown into other structures. It has spread to one or more lymph nodes larger than 6 cm across but has not spread to distant sites.

Stage IVC: Cancer cells have spread to distant sites.

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Journal of Molecular Oncology Research
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