What is head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancer refers to a cancer that begins in one of these areas:

  • The voice box, also called the larynx. The voice box helps you breathe and talk.
  • The nasal cavity or sinuses. The nasal cavity is the hollow space inside the nose. The sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones around the nose.
  • The throat, also called the pharynx. This is the area from behind the nose to the top of the esophagus. It includes the nasopharynx (behind the nose), the oropharynx (back of the mouth) and hypopharynx (lower part of the throat).
  • The mouth. Mouth cancer is also called oral cancer. This includes the lips, tongue, mouth, and top of the throat.
  • The saliva glands. The saliva (or salivary) glands make saliva and help digest food. They are in the floor of the mouth near the jaw bones.

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Symptoms can include:

  • A sore throat or swollen throat that doesn’t heal
  • A sore in the nose or mouth that doesn’t heal
  • A lump in the head or neck area that does not go away
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A change in the voice

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