Head and neck cancer is a group of cancers that starts within the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, sinuses, or salivary glands. Symptoms may include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, trouble swallowing, or a change in the voice. There may also be unusual bleeding, facial swelling, or trouble breathing.
About 80% of head and neck cancer is due to the use of alcohol or tobacco. Other risk factors include betel quid, certain types of human papillomavirus, radiation exposure, certain workplace exposures, and Epstein-Barr virus. Head and neck cancers are most commonly of the squamous cell carcinoma type. The diagnosis is confirmed by tissue biopsy. The degree of spread may be determined by medical imaging and blood tests.
Prevention is by not using tobacco or alcohol. While screening in the general population does not appear to be useful, screening high risk groups by examination of the throat might be useful. Often head and neck cancer is curable if detected early; however, outcomes are typically poor if detected late. Treatment may include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Following treatment of one head and neck cancer people are at higher risk of a second cancer.
In 2013 head and neck cancers globally affected more than 4.6 million people (mouth 2.4 million, throat 1.3 million, larynx 0.9 million) and resulted in more than 362,000 deaths (mouth 135,000, throat 139,000, larynx 88,000). Together they are the seventh most frequent cancer and the ninth most frequent cause of death from cancer. In the United States about one percent of people are affected at some point in their life and males are affected twice as often as females. The usual age at diagnosis is between 55 and 65 years. The average 5 year survival following diagnosis in the developed world is 42 to 64%.