What is Head and Neck Cancer? Explore Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment options.

What is Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancer is a broad term that is used to define cancers in the head and neck cells. Most of the time these are squamous tissues of the region, this cancer can occur anywhere in the head and neck region. Prominent regions for these cancers are the mouth, throat, nasal cavity, sinuses, larynx, and salivary glands.

These cancers are diagnosed and treated with several methods it may surgery or heavy medication. Late diagnosis of these cancers can cause death of the person. These cancers account for 4% of all cancers and their percentage has increased in the past several years.

Types of Head and Neck Cancer

Based on the location and type of tissue head and neck cancer is divided into five categories. They are composed of different tissues and most of the time it’s squamous tissue.

  1. Oral cavity cancer

This cancer occurs in mouth and nearby regions and include lips, tongue, gums, and lining of the mouth cavity. There are some risk factors like tobacco chewing and alcohol are cause of this cancer.

  • Pharyngeal and laryngeal cancer

It occurs in the pharynx and larynx region outside the buccal cavity. The pharynx consists of the nasal chamber and back to the throat region. The causes of both types of cancer a smoking and alcohol.

  • Para nasal sinus and nasal Chamber cancer

This cancer develops in the nasal passage and around the sinus region. There are a few chemicals that are the cause of this cancer. Factory workers especially stone factory workers are one of these cancers.

It is associated with the thyroid gland which is located in the neck region. It is neck region but considered in head and neck cancers. Some mutation in the genes is responsible for this cancer.

  • Salivary Gland Cancer

This gland produces saliva in the mouth and these glands are also prone to cancer. Exposure to radiation and genetic mutation is the cause behind these cancers but their exact cause is still unknown.

Causes of the Head and Neck Cancer

There are several chemical, physical, and genetic reasons behind these cancers. Sometimes there is more than one reason for a single cancer type. Several factors that contribute to head and neck cancer are as follows.

  1. Tobacco chewing is the most likely reason for mouth cancers and throat cancers.
  2. Alcohol consumption in high amounts causes stomach cancers and mouth cancers.
  3. Certain viruses like HPV are also responsible for several cancers and these are transmitted through sexual contact.
  4. Fast food, artificial Flavors, and a low nutritional diet may also cause mouth cancers.
  5. Occupational disorders in factory workers also include mouth and throat cancers. Stone dust is a polluting agent and causes cancer in human beings.
  6. Exposure to radiation at the workplace and to UV radiation causes Cancer in the person. There are also chances of developing secondary cancer because of the treatment of the first cancer.

Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms

Like many causes and different types of cancers, there are different symptoms of head and neck cancer.

  • Persistent sore throat which is not cured even after the treatment is the primary symptom of throat cancer.
  • Laryngeal cancer causes changes in the voice and hoarseness in the voice.
  • There is also difficulty in swallowing which is called dysphagia and it is a common symptom of both mouth and throat cancer.
  • There are also unrelated symptoms like ear pain which occurs when there is nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Sometimes as an initial symptom, there is swelling in the neck region. They may be seen in the form of lumps and small tumors.
  • There may be blood in the saliva and changes in the skin colour of the throat region, which seems like a swollen portion.
  • Unexplained weight loss is a common symptom in all types of cancer.
  • Nasal blockage, with unexplained nose bleeding and discharge, may also be a reason for cancer in the nasal passage.
  • Unexpected changes in the PCV, HV, and neutrophils are also common indications of cancer.

Head and Neck Cancer Treatments

There is a combination of treatments in some cancers but there are chances of treating cancers through surgical processes and radiation therapies.

Surgery – Surgery is a terminal method to treat cancer, and it aims to remove cancer cells without harming other cells. There is also the chance of getting secondary cancers if surgery is not successfully done by the doctors.

Radiation Therapy – High energy X-rays and other chemical relations that can destroy cancer cells. This is accompanied by the medications which are usually suggested in the form of an exact dose.

Chemotherapy – it is taken intravenously or administered in the form of drugs orally. It is also a synonym for radiation therapy, most of the cancers are treated by chemotherapies.

Immunotherapy – It is a method to boost the immune system so that your body can treat itself. Cancer cells can be detected by our immune system and treated by them. Head and neck cancers are treated successfully from immunotherapy.

Targeted TherapiesThis therapy interferes with the functioning of the virus cells which cause cancer. And it attacks cancer cells by modifying molecules and destroying the growth of the cancer cells.

Palliative Care – There are also some associated symptoms of other diseases during the treatment of cancer. Doctors used to cope with them with integrated methods, it may be medication or therapy to relieve symptoms.


Various groups of malignancies affect the head and neck region, and because of different locations and types, they have different symptoms. Potential risks are seen when a person is addicted to smoking and alcohol. There are some genetic reasons behind the causes of cancer.

Early detection is necessary for successful treatments, if you have such symptoms you can contact to head and neck specialist. Dr. Satish Sharma is a medical oncologist in Ranchi you can contact us for further guidance.


Is head and neck cancer curable?

In many cases, especially when detected early, head and neck cancer can be effectively treated and even cured. However, the outcome depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer and the chosen treatment approach.

What is the prognosis for head and neck cancer?

Prognosis varies based on the stage at diagnosis and the type of cancer. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve outcomes.

What are the main causes of head and neck cancer?

The primary risk factors are tobacco and alcohol use, as well as infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Prolonged exposure to certain chemicals and radiation can also increase the risk.