Head and Neck Cancer Care
What Is Head and Neck Cancer?
Head and neck cancers often start in the mouth, throat, and voice box. They affect the way we breathe, speak, swallow, and look.
The most common type forms in the squamous cells, which line the surface of those areas. This type of cancer is squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
Head and neck cancer can also occur in the salivary glands, sinuses, or muscles or nerves. But these types of head and next cancer are much rarer than squamous cell cancer.
- Throat cancers, such as hypopharyngeal, laryngeal, nasopharyngeal, and metastatic squamous neck cancer.
- Oral and oropharyngeal cancers, such as oral cavity and salivary gland cancer.
- Nose and sinus cancer, including paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer.
- Recurring (metastatic) head and neck cancer, which is cancer that has returned in the head and neck or spread throughout the body.
- Thyroid cancer, which forms as a nodule in the thyroid gland. This gland is below the voice box in the front of the neck.
Symptoms of head and neck cancer may include:
- A lump or a sore in the mouth or throat that doesn't heal.
- A growth or swelling of the jaw or under the chin.
- Unusual bleeding in the mouth.
- A sore throat that doesn't improve.
- Trouble swallowing.
- A change or hoarseness in the voice.
- Pain or ringing in the ears.
- Trouble breathing or speaking.
- Numbness or paralysis in the face.
- Pain in the face, chin, or neck that doesn't go away.
- Sinuses that don't clear.
- Chronic sinus infections that don't respond to antibiotics.
- Bleeding through the nose.
- Frequent headaches.
- Swelling or other trouble with the eyes.
- Pain in the upper teeth or problems with dentures.
Many of these symptoms are often a sign of a less serious illness.
Talk to your doctor or dentist about your symptoms so they can learn their cause.
Certain risk factors increase a person's chance of getting head and neck cancer, such as:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- Age. Most head and neck cancers affect people 50 and older.
- Gender. Men are at more risk than women.
- Radiation exposure as a child.
- Having HPV.
- Poor dental hygiene. You may need head and neck cancer screenings more often.
- A diet low in vitamins A and B.
There's no proven way to fully prevent head and neck cancer.
But you may be able to lower your risk by changing certain habits.
- Stop smoking, even if you've been smoking for many years.
- Do not use tobacco products such as chewing tobacco.
- Avoid alcohol
- Use sunscreen
- Limit your number of sex partners to reduce your risk of HPV.
- Get the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) if you're between the ages of 9 and 45.
- Maintain proper dental hygiene with routine dental checkups.
- Take care of dentures and have regular fittings.
The location of these cancers — in the throat, mouth, nose, and sinuses — takes careful and precise treatment.
To achieve the best results, our experts offer state-of-the-art head and neck cancer surgery and care, including:
- Advanced minimally invasive techniques.
- The latest robotic technology, which makes it easier to operate on the head and neck.
- Up-to-date reconstructive techniques to restore your quality of life.
- A mix of chemo, radiation, and surgery to augment your treatment.
- Mental and social support for you and your loved ones during treatment and recovery.
Why Choose UPMC Hillman Cancer Center for Head and Neck Cancer Care?
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute in western Pa. And we're one of only three in the whole state.
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has more than 70 locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and western New York, which means you:
UPMC Head & Neck Cancer Survivorship Clinic
Head and neck cancers, even if cured, can leave lasting and severe complications. The UPMC Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Clinic helps prepare patients for these potential issues before treatment and works with them post-treatment to manage the side effects.
Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis
People with head and neck cancer might not experience many symptoms at first, but as the cancer grows symptoms may occur. There are various risk factors that increase a person’s chance of getting cancer.
Learn more about symptoms and diagnosis.