Health A to Z
Head and neck cancer is a relatively uncommon type of cancer. Around 10,000 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year.
There are more than 30 areas within the head and neck where cancer can develop, including the:
Mouth cancer is the most common type of head and neck cancer.
It can affect a number of areas in and around the mouth, including the:
Symptoms of mouth cancer can include persistent mouth ulcers and/or a lump in your mouth, both of which may be painful.
Read more about mouth cancer.
Laryngeal cancer develops in the tissue of the larynx (voice box).
Symptoms of laryngeal cancer can include:
Read more about laryngeal cancer.
Doctors don't tend to use the term "throat cancer", as the throat (pharynx) includes many different parts that can be affected by cancer.
The main areas that can be affected are the:
The most common symptoms of cancer in the oropharynx or hypopharynx include a lump in the neck, a persistent sore throat and difficulty swallowing.
Macmillan Cancer Support has more information about oropharyngeal cancer.
Salivary glands produce saliva, which keeps your mouth moist and helps with swallowing and digestion.
There are three main pairs of salivary glands. They are the:
Salivary gland cancer most commonly affects the parotid glands.
The main symptom of salivary gland cancer is a lump or swelling on or near your jaw, or in your mouth or neck, although the vast majority of these lumps are non-cancerous. Other symptoms can include numbness in part of your face and drooping on one side of your face.
Nose 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).
Read more about nose and sinus cancer.
Nasopharyngeal cancer affects the part of the throat that connects the back of the nose to the back of the mouth. It's one of the rarest types of head and neck cancer in the UK.
Symptoms can include:
Read more about nasopharyngeal cancer.