Head & Neck Cancer - Know the Facts

Cancers that develop in the oral cavity, including the lips, the pharynx (larynx, oropharynx and nasopharnyx) or sinuses are classified as head, neck and oral cancers.

Risk factors for developing head, neck and oral cancer:

  • Tobacco product usage including: cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless or chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol usage
  • Chewing betel nuts
  • Certain types of human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • Sunlight exposure (mainly for lips)

Here's some basic information about head and neck cancer, its proliferation in the United States, and current information about how it is being treated.

Most of the head, neck and oral cancers start in cells called squamous cells. When uncontrolled growth of the cells (cancer) are found in squamous cells, it is called squamous cell carcinoma. Other forms of cancers can also be found in the head, neck and oral sites.

Where does head, neck and oral cancer start?
Cancers of the oral cavity develop in the following areas: lips, front of the tongue, gingiva (gums), buccal mucosa (cheeks), floor or bottom of the mouth, hard palate (top of the mouth) or retromolar trigone (the small area behind the wisdom teeth). A large percentage of head and neck cancers begin in the mouth as sores or lesions. Any lesion that does not heal in two weeks, however, should be seen by a physician, and a biopsy should be considered.

Pharyngeal cancers start in the base of the tongue, the pharynx, the tonsils, the vocal cord, and other areas of the upper aero-digestive tract.

Who does head, neck and oral cancer effect?
While the total number of cases of head, neck and oral cancer has been decreasing slowly in the United States over the past 20 years; there is evidence to show that diagnoses are increasing in adults, 40 years and younger.

Prevention Measures:

  • Change lifestyle and eating habits for healthier alternatives
  • Avoid known cancer-causing agents like tobacco and alcohol
  • Discuss HPV (human papilloma virus) transmission with your physician or healthcare provider