Head and Neck Cancer—Patient Version

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Overview

Head and neck cancers are cancers that start in the tissues and organs of the head and neck. They include cancers of the larynx (voice box), throat, lips, mouth, nose, and salivary glands.

Most head and neck cancers begin in squamous cells, which are cells that line moist surfaces such as those inside the head and neck (for example, the mouth, nose, and throat). Salivary glands have many different types of cells that can become cancer so there are many different types of salivary gland cancer.

Tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) increase the risk of many types of head and neck cancer.

To get the right information about treatment and prognosis, you need to know exactly what type of head and neck cancer you have and what stage it is.

The Head and Neck Cancers fact sheet has additional basic information.  

Areas where head and neck cancer may occur.