Head and Neck Cancer Education and Multimedia : Head and Neck Cancers

Head and Neck Cancers

Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer:

These cancers originate in the mouth, most often the floor of the mouth, the jaw, the front of the tongue and the lips.

Oropharyngeal Cancer:

The oropharynx includes the middle of the throat from the tonsils to the tip of the voice box, including the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate, and the walls of the pharynx. Oropharyngeal cancers can be divided into two types, HPV-positive, which are related to human papillomavirus infection, and HPV-negative cancers, which are usually linked to alcohol or tobacco use. Clinicians have seen a spike in HPV-positive head and neck cancers. Over the last sixteen years, the incidence in the U.S. has gone up 225 percent. Laryngeal Cancer: Also known as cancers of the larynx or voice box, these are mostly squamous cell carcinomas, and can involve the vocal cords and other structures of the larynx.

Hypopharyngeal Cancer:

This is a disease in which malignant cells grow in the hypopharynx, the area where the larynx and esophagus meet. This type of cancer is rare, only about 2,500 cases in the US each year, but it tends to be more serious, requiring aggressive management.

Nasopharyngeal Cancer:

These cancers occur in the airway behind the nose and are most common in patients from East Asia.

Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer:

These cancers form in the sinuses and nose.

Salivary Gland Cancer:

Cancer forms in tissues of salivary glands, including the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands and other minor glands located throughout the palate, nasal and oral cavity. Salivary gland cancer is rare, with only two percent of head and neck tumors forming in the salivary glands, the majority in the parotid gland.

Head and Neck Sarcomas:

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of sarcomas occur within the head and mandible (jaw); the sinuses and neck are the most frequent sites of origin. Unlike the development of squamous cell carcinoma, the development of sarcomas is unrelated to smoking and alcohol use or to human papillomavirus. In the head and neck, the most common sarcomas in adults are osteosarcoma, angiosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, and fibrosarcoma. Medical oncologists specializing in sarcoma work with head and neck surgeons on these cases.

Head and Neck Endocrine Cancer:

Although thyroid and parathyroid cancers are endocrine cancers, up 30 percent of head and neck surgeons’ practice involves surgery on these cases, including neck dissection of lymph nodes.

Head and Neck Lymphoma:

Lymphoma is often diagnosed through excisional biopsy of neck lymph nodes. Head and neck surgeons often do those biopsies and are crucial to lymphoma diagnosis.

Skin Cancers:

Finally, melanoma, basal and squamous cell skin cancers may occur in sun-exposed skin of the head and neck. Early basal and squamous cell head and neck cancers are treated by skin cancer professionals. More advanced cases, particularly those that have spread to lymph nodes, are treated by head and neck specialists. Melanomas that originate in the head and neck are treated by head and neck surgeons and radiation oncologists, in conjunction with skin cancer medical oncologists.