Cancers involving the head and neck are very common. These cancers include tumors in the mouth (oral cavity), throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), paranasal sinuses, saliva glands, and neck. While more commonly seen in people over age 50, men, and tobacco users, head and neck cancer can affect anyone.
Multiple risk factors are associated with developing head and neck cancer. Tobacco (smoking and smokeless types) and alcohol use are the strongest risk factors, with individuals who use both being at highest risk. While not as common in the U.S., the use of betel nut and maté are also associated with the development of head and neck cancer. Other risk factors include certain occupational exposures such as wood dust, nickel dust, cobalt, and formaldehyde, and radiation exposure either occupationally or for medical treatment. Lastly, certain infectious agents have been linked to head and neck tumors including Ebstein-Barr virus (EBV) and nasopharyngeal cancer, and the human papilloma virus (HPV) and oropharyngeal cancer.
Head and neck cancers can cause multiple symptoms related to the mouth and throat including:
- A growth or non-healing sore in the mouth
- Spitting up blood
- Throat problems including voice changes, difficulty swallowing, persistent throat pain
- Lump in the neck
Although these symptoms can be associated with many other disorders. If you have any of them for more than several weeks, you should seek evaluation by a Board Certified otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor). All of our doctors are Board Certified including Dr James T. May, IV who is a fellowship trained head and neck cancer specialist.
Evaluation and treatment for these tumors can involve multiple different types of specialists including medical oncologists, radiation therapists, speech pathologists, family doctors and others. We work closely with all of these experts as a team to organize a multifaceted approach to care that is tailored to each individual patient