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Head and neck cancers include cancers in the mouth and throat, the sinuses (spaces in the bones of the face), salivary glands, nose and middle ear.
Head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck areas. For example, inside the mouth, in the nose and in the throat.
Cancers that begin in the salivary glands or thyroid are much less common.Head and neck cancers are named after the area they start in.
Mouth (oral) cancer
Mouth cancers include:
Throat (pharynx) cancer
The throat is a muscular hollow tube about 5 inches long. It starts behind the nose and leads to the oesophagus – it’s the continuation of the nose and mouth. Throat cancer is unusual. But it’s more common in men in their 60s and 70s. Throat cancer often begins in the flat cells that line the inside of the throat.
Common throat cancer symptoms include:
Voice box (larynx) cancer
The larynx or ‘voice box’, because it contains your vocal cords, is a short passageway in the neck. It also has a small piece of tissue, called the epiglottis. This moves to cover the larynx to prevent food from getting into airways when we eat.
Nose cancer and cancer near the nose (paranasal)
Paranasal cancer affects the sinuses, or spaces in the bones of the face near the nose.
Most people who have this type of cancer have a blockage in the nose. Other symptoms may include:
Salivary gland cancer
The salivary glands produce saliva. The major salivary glands are in the floor of the mouth near the jawbone. Salivary gland cancer is unusual. It’s more common in people aged over 50.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.
There are many ways to have radiation therapy but they all work in a similar way. Carefully controlled high-energy X-rays destroy or damage cancer cells. This stops them growing or spreading.
Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.
Any procedure including treatments involving radiation carry risks, including skin irritation and associated pain. Before proceeding with a referral for treatment, patients should be advised to seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. As in any medical procedure, patient experiences and outcomes will vary.