Head and Neck Cancers

What are head and neck cancers?

Cancers of the head and neck generally originate in the squamous cells of mucosal surfaces like the inside of your mouth, throat or nose.

Tumors we treat in the Baptist Cancer Center's Head and Neck Center include but are not limited to those of the:

  • Oral cavity (mouth, lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, palate and mouth floor)
  • Pharynx or throat (including the oropharynx (behind the mouth), nasopharynx (behind the nasal passage) and hypopharynx (behind the voice box))
  • Larynx
  • Thyroid and Parathyroid
  • Salivary glands
  • Skin of the head and neck, including melanoma
  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses
  • Skull base
  • Ear and temporal bone
  • Eye cancer
  • Neck

In addition, the Head and Neck Center treats:

  • Acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma)
  • Sarcomas of the head and neck
  • Head and neck issues in patients with tumors elsewhere in the body

What are the symptoms of head and neck cancers?

Head and neck cancers may present as a lump that does not go away or a sore that is not healing properly. Persistent sore throats, difficulty swallowing, or a change in voice, such as increased hoarseness can also be symptoms of head and neck cancers. But more often these symptoms are not the result of cancer but another illness so talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

What are the risk factors and causes of head and neck cancers?

Two of the most important risk factors and causes of head and neck cancers are alcohol abuse and tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco use. According to Cancer.gov at least 75% of head and neck cancers are the result of tobacco and alcohol use.

  • Paan or beta quid when used orally can increase the risk for developing head and neck cancer.
  • Maté, a tea-like beverage that is commonly consumed in South America, has been linked to an increase in head and neck cancers.
  • Preserved food or heavily salted food consumption as a child has been linked to an increased risk for head and neck cancers.
  • Poor oral hygiene can increase your risk for developing head and neck cancers.
  • Regular exposure to wood dust, nickel, or formaldehyde can also increase your risk for head and neck cancers.

What are the treatment options for head and neck cancers?

When you are treated for a head and neck tumor at BCC, you receive the undivided focus of a team of physicians and scientists that may include medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, neuroradiologists and plastic surgeons. They are joined by dentists, nurses, speech pathologists, audiologists, nutritionists, psychologists and social workers with special training in head and neck cancers. Working together, they prepare a customized plan of care just for you. Treatments available may include proton therapy, gamma knife and targeted therapies, as well as innovative, minimally invasive surgical techniques, including robotic surgery.

We take a team approach to be sure you receive the most-advanced treatment with the least impact on your body. And we have special expertise and highly skilled therapists to help you maintain speech, swallowing and/or hearing.