Head & neck cancer

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.

What are head and neck cancers?

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.

Types of head and neck cancer

Laryngeal cancer starts in the voice box (larynx). The voice box is at the entrance of the windpipe and is important for breathing and speaking.

Laryngeal cancer is rare, especially if you’re under 40. It affects about four times as many men than women and is more common if you’re over 60.

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Mouth cancer starts in the mouth. It can also spread to lymph nodes in the neck. It’s more common in men than women, and most mouth cancers affect people aged 50-74. Younger people can also get it, but it’s more likely if they have the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Mouth cancer is named after the type of cell where it begins. The most common is squamous cell carcinoma.

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Nasal cavity cancers begin in the nose or the sinuses. Although they are rare, you’re more at risk if you’re male, over 40 or smoke.

Squamous cell carcinomas are the most common type of cancer to affect the nasal cavity and can develop within any part of the nose.

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Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare form of throat cancer that develops on the surface of the nasopharynx at the back of the nasal cavity. Men are three times more likely than women to get this type of cancer. It’s usually diagnosed around the age of 50.

Nasopharyngeal cancer is difficult to diagnose, as symptoms can be very similar to other less serious conditions.

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Thyroid cancer affects the small gland at the base of the neck. The job of the gland is to produce hormones that help control your metabolic rate and the amount of calcium in your blood.

There are four main types of thyroid cancer. The most common, and easiest to treat, is papillary carcinoma.

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There are three main pairs of salivary glands: parotid, sublingual and submandibular and over 600 minor salivary glands.

Most salivary gland tumours are benign, 3 out of 4 tumours that arise in the parotid glands are benign.There is a very slightly higher incidence in men and is most common in the 50-70 years age group.

Read more

Laryngeal cancer starts in the voice box (larynx). The voice box is at the entrance of the windpipe and is important for breathing and speaking.

Laryngeal cancer is rare, especially if you’re under 40. It affects about four times as many men than women and is more common if you’re over 60.

Read more

Mouth cancer starts in the mouth. It can also spread to lymph nodes in the neck. It’s more common in men than women, and most mouth cancers affect people aged 50-74. Younger people can also get it, but it’s more likely if they have the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Mouth cancer is named after the type of cell where it begins. The most common is squamous cell carcinoma.

Read more

Nasal cavity cancers begin in the nose or the sinuses. Although they are rare, you’re more at risk if you’re male, over 40 or smoke.

Squamous cell carcinomas are the most common type of cancer to affect the nasal cavity and can develop within any part of the nose.

Read more

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare form of throat cancer that develops on the surface of the nasopharynx at the back of the nasal cavity. Men are three times more likely than women to get this type of cancer. It’s usually diagnosed around the age of 50.

Nasopharyngeal cancer is difficult to diagnose, as symptoms can be very similar to other less serious conditions.

Read more

Thyroid cancer affects the small gland at the base of the neck. The job of the gland is to produce hormones that help control your metabolic rate and the amount of calcium in your blood.

There are four main types of thyroid cancer. The most common, and easiest to treat, is papillary carcinoma.

Read more

There are three main pairs of salivary glands: parotid, sublingual and submandibular and over 600 minor salivary glands.

Most salivary gland tumours are benign, 3 out of 4 tumours that arise in the parotid glands are benign.There is a very slightly higher incidence in men and is most common in the 50-70 years age group.

Read more

Treatments we cover

Radiotherapy 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.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Radiotherapy 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.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Meet our doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

Search for a centre near you

Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

+44 (0)121 353 3055

Chelmsford

Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

+44 (0)1245 987 901

Cromwell Hospital

164-178 Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW5 0TU, UK

020 7460 5626

Elstree

Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ

+44 (0)208 236 9040

Guildford

BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, GU1 3LX

+44 (0)1483 806 000

Maidstone

17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UA

+44 (0)1732 207 000

Milton Keynes

Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood East, Milton Keynes, MK14 6LS

+44 (0)1908 467 700

Newmarket

The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket, CB8 7XN

+44 (0)1223 907 600

Nottingham

The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX

+44 (0)115 966 2250

Oxford

Sandy Lane West, Peters Way, Oxford, OX4 6LB

+44 (0)1865 237 700

Portsmouth

Bartons Road, Havant, PO9 5NA

+44 (0)23 9248 4992

Southampton

Spire Hospital, Chalybeate Close, Southampton, SO16 6UY

+44 (0)238 076 4961

Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HD

+44 (0)1753 418 444