What is Head and Neck Cancer?
The head and neck are a diverse region of the body that include the larynx, trachea, oral cavity, tongue, pharynx (throat), nasopharynx, salivary glands and thyroid. Tumors that develop in these areas are normally squamous cell carcinomas, which begin as cancerous growths in the squamous cells that make up most of the respiratory and digestive tracts. If detected early, head and neck cancer often may be treated successfully. These cancers may be particularly difficult for patients because they may impact speech and sight and cause disfigurement. Swallowing and the sense of smell also may be impacted.
Between three and five percent of cancers in the U.S. are head and neck cancers and are usually found more frequently in people older than 50. They are twice as common in men as in women.