Head and neck cancer overview

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Maneesha Nandimandalam, M.B.B.S.[2]

Head and Neck cancer Microchapters

Patient Information



Brain tumor
Oral cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer
Hypopharyngeal cancer
Glomus tumor
Salivary gland tumor
Laryngeal cancer
Thyroid cancer
Parathyroid cancer
Esophageal cancer


Differential diagnosis

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [3]


The term head and neck cancer refers to a group of biologically similar cancers originating from the upper aerodigestive tract, including the lip, oral cavity (mouth), nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, pharynx, and larynx. Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, originating from the mucosal lining (epithelium) of these regions.[1] Head and neck cancers often spread to the lymph nodes of the neck, and this is often the first (and sometimes only) manifestation of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Head and neck cancer is strongly associated with certain environmental and lifestyle risk factors, including tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, and certain strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. Head and neck cancer is highly curable if detected early, most often through a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, although surgery may also play an important role.