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Types of Head and Neck Cancers


Oral Cancer

Includes cancers arising in the lips, cheek lining, gums, front two-thirds of the tongue, the mouth below the tongue and the roof of the mouth. Oral cancer is more than twice as common in men as in women and, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 35,000 Americans will get either cancer in their mouth this year. Fortunately, the death rate for these cancers has been decreasing since the late 1970s.


Laryngeal Cancer

Is a cancer of the larynx or voice box. The ACS estimates that there are more than 12,300 new cases of laryngeal cancer annually in the US, and it's more common in men than women. These numbers are decreasing, mainly because fewer people are smoking.


Throat Cancer 

Can occur in three different sections of the throat: the oropharynx, the part of the throat just behind the mouth; the nasopharynx, the part of the throat behind the nose and above the oropharynx; and the hypopharynx, the part of the throat below the oropharynx. According to the ACS, there will be more than 13,000 new cases of cancer of the pharynx in the US this year and, similar to oral cancer and laryngeal cancer, is much more common in men than women.  Head and neck tumors associated with EBV infection usually arise in the nasopharynx whereas tumors associated with HPV infection are nearly always in the oropharynx.


Thyroid Cancer

The thyroid gland produces a hormone that controls our metabolism. According to the ACS, there are about 56,400 new cases of thyroid cancer in the US each year, and it is much more common in women than men. The chance of being told that you have thyroid cancer has risen in recent years, due in part to the increased use of thyroid ultrasound, which detects small nodules that might not have been found otherwise.


Parathyroid Cancer

Are very rare, the ACS estimates that there are probably fewer than 100 cases per year in the US. The parathyroids are four tiny glands attached to the thyroid gland that help control the body's calcium levels.


Nasal Cavity & Paranasal Sinuses Cancer

Are also rare, with about 2,000 Americans developing these cancers each year. Most of these cancers occur in the maxillary sinuses or in the nasal cavity.


Salivary Gland Cancer

Starts in one of the salivary glands, of which there are several inside and near the mouth. Several types of cancer as well as non-cancerous tumors can develop in these glands. However, these cancers are not common and account for less than 1% of cancers in the United States.