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Head, Neck, and Throat Cancer

Head or neck cancers include cancers of the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat, or larynx (voice box). Most of these cancers begin in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces in the head and neck. Head and neck cancers are identified by the area in which they begin. When found early, many cancers in the head and neck can be cured. Cancer of the throat is cancer of the vocal cords, voice box (larynx), or other areas of the throat.

Head and Neck Cancer

Risk Factors

Factors known to contribute to the risk of developing head and neck cancers include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Frequent alcohol use
  • Leukoplakia (white spots or patches in the mouth)

Symptoms

  • A lump in the neck
  • Change in the voice
  • A growth in the mouth
  • Bringing up blood
  • Swallowing Problems with swallowing
  • Changes in the skin
  • Persistent earache

If you have these symptoms, it is important to be seen by the Miami Valley Hospital’s cancer team who has expertise in treating this specific disease.

Causes

Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of these deaths. Eighty-five percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk for developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.

Diagnosis

Some exams and tests that may be used to diagnosis head and neck cancer include:

Treatment Options

Head and neck cancer is often complex, with many different sites and staging systems. Current treatments include:

Throat Cancer

Risk Factors

Risks factors of throat cancer include:

  • Tobacco use (smoking and chewing tobacco)
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • Exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring fiber that's used in certain manufacturing industries

Symptoms

Symptoms of throat cancer may include:

  • Cough
  • Changes in your voice, such as hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Lump or sore that doesn't heal
  • Sore throat
  • Weight loss

If you have these symptoms, it is important to be seen by the Miami Valley Hospital’s cancer team who has expertise in treating this specific disease.

Diagnosis

An examination of the neck and throat may show cancer of the throat. The sputum (what is coughed up) may appear bloody. A lump may appear on the outside of the neck. A laryngoscopy, which is examination by use of a tube with a small lighted camera, allows the physician to look into the mouth and down the throat.

A neck or cranial CT scan or cranial MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) may show throat cancer. These tests also help determine if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.

If abnormalities are found during the examination, your doctor can collect a tissue sample (biopsy). Analysis of tissues that appear abnormal may confirm the presence of a cancerous tumor.

Treatment

  • Surgery for throat cancer may involve:
  • Scraping off or cutting out superficial cancers
  • Removal of all or part of the voice box (laryngectomy)
  • Removal of all or part of the throat (pharyngectomy)
  • Throat cancers are particularly sensitive to radiation therapy, so most people with throat cancer undergo radiation therapy as part of their treatment.
  • Chemotherapy is often used along with radiation therapy in treating throat cancers. Certain chemotherapy drugs make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy. But combining chemotherapy and radiation therapy increases the side effects of both treatments.

Patient Education

Learn more about head and neck cancer so you can better understand your condition and your treatment options.

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