What is Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers involve malignant tumors located in the mouth, nose or the throat. Most head and neck cancers are of a type called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This originates from squamous cells which construct the moist, thin lining on the surface of tissues & organs in the head and the neck area.

The types of head and neck cancers vary according to the location of the tumors:

  1. Oral & oropharynx – this includes the tongue, gums, cheek, lips, roof and the floor of the mouth, as well as the tonsils and space behind them.
  2. Nasal & paranasal sinuses – cavity of the nose & the air filled spaces surrounding the nose
  3. Nasopharynx – this is the site in which the back of the nose meets the back of the mouth.
  4. Larynx – also known as the ‘voicebox’.
  5. Salivary gland – the saliva producing tissues.
Illustration courtesy of National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)