Head and neck cancer refers to several types of cancers that affect the head and neck areas of the body. These cancers account for approximately 3% to 5% of all cancers in the United States. Head and neck cancer is more common in men and in people over age 50. These cancers are very treatable if caught early and are easily preventable. The most common causes of head and neck cancer are tobacco and alcohol use. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is also an important risk factor for some head and neck cancers.
Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the:
- Oral cavity: lips, tongue, gums, lining of the cheeks and lips, bottom and top of the mouth, and behind the wisdom teeth. The most common type of head and neck cancer.
- Salivary glands: These produce the saliva that keeps your mouth and throat moist. The main glands are on the bottom of the mouth and near the jawbone.
- Sinuses: the hollow spaces in the bones surrounding the nose.
- Nasal cavity: the hollow area inside the nose.
- Throat (pharynx).
- Voicebox (larynx).
- Lymph nodes in the upper part of the neck.
Despite their locations, brain, eye and thyroid cancers aren’t usually referred to as head and neck cancers.