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Head and Neck Cancer

What is head and neck cancer?

This broad category includes cancers of the mouth and tongue, the throat, the larynx (voice box), sinuses, and salivary glands. Two common risk factors for all of these, though, are smoking and alcohol use.

You also face a higher risk if you have poor oral hygiene, worked with certain industrial materials, or have ever had the HPV virus. Be on the lookout for white or red patches in your mouth, sore throats that won’t heal, or difficulty swallowing. If you are experiencing any symptoms talk to your doctor.

What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancer can be difficult to diagnose since symptoms typically are mild and can be confused for a cold or sore throat. Early detection is key to stopping cancer before it develops. Symptoms of head and neck cancer include:

  • Trouble swallowing, breathing or speaking
  • Mouth or tongue sore that does not heal
  • The white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining in the mouth
  • Swelling in the jaw, neck, or side of the face
  • Sinus infection that does not go away with antibiotics
  • Lump in neck or throat area
  • Pain in the ears or neck

What are the different types of head and neck cancers?

Head and neck cancers – which account for about 65,000 cases each year – are twice as common among men. Your doctor can find the disease with a variety of imaging and blood tests, and they encourage you to frequently visit your dentist. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to check with your doctor immediately.

Mouth Cancer

Mouth cancer is the most common type of head and neck cancer. It mainly affects in and around the mouth including lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, and the floor or roof of the mouth. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of mouth cancer, accounting for 9 out of 10 cases. It mainly comes from smoking or chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol, and the HPV infection.

Throat Cancer

Throat cancer is difficult to detect early since it shares similar symptoms to a sore throat or never-ending cough. The most common symptoms of throat cancer in the oropharynx or hypopharynx include a lump in the neck, a persistent sore throat, and difficulty swallowing.

Salivary Gland Cancer

Salivary glands produce saliva, which keeps your mouth moist and helps with swallowing and digestion. The main symptom of salivary gland cancer is a lump or swelling on or near your jaw, or in your mouth or neck. But most of these lumps are non-cancerous. Other symptoms can include numbness in part of your face and drooping on one side of your face.

Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer affects the voice box (larynx) and sits at the bottom of your throat and contains your vocal cords. The main symptom of laryngeal cancer is having a hoarse voice for more than 3 weeks. The condition is more common in people over the age of 60. It's more common in men than women.

Nasal and Sinus Cancer

Nasal and sinus cancer affects the nasal cavity (above the roof of your mouth) and the sinuses (the small, air-filled cavities inside the bones of the nose and within the cheekbones and forehead). The symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer are similar to viral or bacterial infections, such as the common cold or sinusitis. If you smoke, it's important that you give up. Smoking increases your risk of cancer returning and may cause you to have more side effects from treatment.

Head and Neck Cancer Support Group

  • Cancer Support Groups

    Cancer support groups are gatherings that provide a secure environment for those impacted by the disease to talk about their feelings and experiences with other cancer patients.

What are the treatment options?

Head and neck cancers have three main ways to receive treatment. Surgery to remove cancerous cells, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Reach out to the Lee Health Cancer Institute for all treatment options best suited for your health.

  • Cancer surgery graphic model

    Cancer Surgery

    At Lee Health, surgeons work as part of a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists to provide you with a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan.

  • Chemotherapy and Infusion Services

    Lee Health Cancer Institute offers outpatient and inpatient chemotherapy and infusion services in Fort Myers, FL. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment please call 239-343-9500 

Head and Neck Cancer Program

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Centers in Fort Myers and Estero

The Lee Health Cancer Institute is helping patients all around Florida. If you are traveling from Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, or Port Charlotte, we can help you navigate the next steps in treatment options.

Cancer Specialists Near You

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