Understanding head and neck cancer

April 1, 2019

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What is head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancer is a term used to describe a number of different malignant tumors that develop in or around the throat, larynx (voice box), nose, sinuses and mouth.

Areas of the head and neck where cancers begin:

1. Paranasal sinuses & nasal cavity

2. Oral cavity

3. Salivary glands

4. Larynx (voice box)

5. Pharynx (cavity behind nose & mouth, connecting both to esophagus)

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There are two factors that greatly increase the risk of head and neck cancer:

Tobacco Use

85 percent of head and neck cancer cases are linked to tobacco use, and secondhand smoke may also increase a person’s risk

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Frequent and heavy alcohol consumption

Other risk factors include:

  • Prolonged sun exposure
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Marijuana use
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Poor oral/dental hygiene
  • Environmental/occupational inhalants
  • Poor nutrition
  • Gastroesophageal and laryngopharyngeal reflux diseases
  • Weakened immune system

*Lip and oral cavity, oropharynx, larynx, hypopharynx, nasopharynx and salivary gland cancers