Overview of Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer is the term given to a variety of malignant tumors that develop in the

  • oral cavity (mouth);
  • pharynx (throat);
  • paranasal sinuses (small hollow spaces around the nose lined with cells that secrete mucus);
  • nasal cavity (airway just behind the nose);
  • larynx ("Adam's apple" or voice box); and
  • salivary glands (parotid, submanidular, sublingual glands that secrete saliva).

Many authorities also include skin tumors of the face and neck and tumors of the cervical lymph nodes.

Excluding superficial skin cancers, but including cancer of the larynx and thyroid, more than 87,000 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer annually—about 5% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States. There are more than half a million survivors of oral cancer, head cancer, and neck cancer living in the United States today.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 15 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 07 Dec 2011