Including throat cancer, oral cancer, sino-nasal cancer, salivary gland tumours, larynx/pharyngeal cancers
Head and neck cancer is a general term for cancers that occur in the mouth, throat, voice box, sinus, salivary and thyroid glands. Often caused by a history of smoking or heavy drinking and poor oral hygiene, it is a reasonably uncommon cancer type in the UK. However, over the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the incidence of head and neck cancers in a younger group of patients caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
The most common signs or symptoms of head and neck cancer include a neck lump, an ulcer or a lump on the tongue, a loss of voice or difficulty with swallowing because of a tumour in the voice box or throat. These symptoms don’t mean you have head and neck cancer, but you should see a doctor if you have any concerns.
The commonest type of head and neck cancer is squamous cell cancer accounting for around 90% of head and cancer cancers, the other types of head and neck cancer include adenocarcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, lymphomas and sarcomas.
Survival rates vary and depend on the histology, stage and co-morbidities. Patients with early-stage cancers have cure rates of more than 90% with either surgery or radiotherapy. For locally advanced tumours, the long-term cure rate can be around 50% with either combined surgery and radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy. For more advanced tumours which have spread to other parts of the body such as lungs, bones, liver, etc, the treatment is palliative with chemotherapy, immunotherapy radiotherapy or occasionally surgery.