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Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis

Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms and Signs

In the early stages, head and neck cancer often does not cause symptoms.

As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:

  • Headaches (paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer, pharyngeal cancers).
  • Hearing problems or ear pain (laryngeal cancer, pharyngeal cancers).
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes (pharyngeal cancers).
  • Lump or nodule in the front of the neck (thyroid cancer, salivary gland cancer).
  • Pain in the throat or neck (laryngeal cancer, pharynx cancer).
  • Patches of red or white on the gums, tongues, or lining of the mouth (oral cancer).
  • Sinus blockage or pain (paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer).
  • Swallowing or breathing troubles (laryngeal cancer, pharyngeal cancers).
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck (salivary gland cancer).

Head and Neck Cancer Risk Factors

Risk factors increase a person's chance of getting cancer. Sometimes, people can change their habits or jobs to reduce or eliminate head and neck cancer risk factors.

Avoiding smoking or chewing tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption can reduce your risk.

Other factors that can increase the risk for head and neck cancer include:

  • Age — most head and neck cancers affect people 50 and older.
  • Gender — men are at greater risk than women.
  • Occupation — exposure to industrial chemicals, wood dust, and other substances at work.
  • Race — African Americans have a higher rate of head and neck cancer than Hispanics, Asians, or people of European ancestry.
  • Radiation — exposure to radiation during childhood.

Head and Neck Cancer Diagnosis and Staging

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center specialists use state-of-the-art technologies to diagnose and stage head and neck cancers.

Tests and procedures can help your doctor detect head and neck cancer if you are:

  • Having any symptoms.
  • A drinker.
  • A smoker or tobacco user.

Staging helps every member of the care team understand the exact type, size, location, and spread of the cancer.

Your care team will conduct tests to classify the type and stage of your head or neck cancer.

Your Head and Neck Cancer Prognosis

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only center in the region recognized by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Our head and neck cancer experts consider not just the stage or type of cancer but also factors that affect your well-being.

Nutrition and pain specialists work alongside oncologists, pathologists, and others to ensure that the focus is on you — not your disease.

Your prognosis will depend on:

Our team will work at its highest level of expertise toward achieving the best outcome possible.

Contact Us About Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms

Call 412-647-2811 to learn more about head and neck cancer symptoms or make an appointment for head and neck cancer care at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.