Head and neck cancer is a group of cancers that usually begin in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces inside the mouth, nose, throat, and occasionally the salivary glands. These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck.
Head and neck cancers account for nearly 4 percent of all cancers in the United States, the National Cancer Institute reported. Alcohol and tobacco use are major risk factors for head and neck cancers. Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV) also increases a person’s risk of certain head and neck cancers.
Other risk factors for these cancers include:
- Eating preserved or salted foods.
- Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth.
- Occupational exposure to wood dust, asbestos, and synthetic fibers.
- Radiation exposure.
- Epstein-Barr virus infection.
Head and neck cancer is more common among men than women. These cancers are also diagnosed more often among people over age 50 than among younger people.
The symptoms of head and neck cancers may include a lump or a sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice.
Screenings consist of a dentist or doctor visually examining your head, neck and mouth to look for any masses, lesions or swelling. They’ll compare both sides of your neck for enlargement, while feeling your lymph nodes. They will also check your voice, as a raspy voice may be a sign of a tumor. For questions, please contact your healthcare provider for more information.