Head and Neck Cancer Overview
Team approach leads to better care for head and neck cancer
Our nationally recognized head and neck cancer specialists are committed to providing every treatment option available. We can often effectively treat cancers others consider untreatable.
Know the signs
Head and neck cancers include those found in the mouth, throat, sinuses, nasal cavity, larynx, salivary glands, thyroid and parathyroid (any part of the head and neck except the brain). Primarily diagnosed in men over 50, head and neck cancers are increasingly diagnosed in people under 50, including nonsmokers and nondrinkers who have the human papillomavirus.
Early detection is key to successful treatment. Check with your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms for a period longer than two weeks:
- Lump in the neck
- Ear, throat or neck pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Change in voice
- Change in vision
- Frequent headaches
- Poorly fitting dentures
- The larynx also is called the voice box. Laryngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the larynx. The larynx is just below the throat in the neck. It contains the vocal cords, which vibrate and make sound when air is directed against them. The sound echoes through the throat, mouth and nose to make a person's voice. Most laryngeal cancers form in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the larynx.
- Cancer of the mouth, or “oral” cancer, may develop in any part of the mouth. This includes the lip, along with these areas:
- The front two thirds of the tongue
- The gums
- The lining of the inside of the cheeks
- The floor of the mouth under the tongue
- The roof of the mouth
- The small area behind the wisdom teeth
- Most lip and oral cavity cancers start in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells that line the lips and oral cavity.
- Salivary gland cancer is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the salivary glands. The salivary glands make saliva and release it into the mouth. Saliva has enzymes that help digest food and antibodies that help protect against infections of the mouth and throat. More than half of all salivary gland tumors are “benign” or not cancerous and do not spread to other tissues.
Sinuses and Nasal Cavity
- The sinuses are hollow, air-filled spaces in the bones around the nose. The sinuses are lined with cells that make mucus, which keeps the inside of the nose from drying out during breathing. The nose opens into the nasal cavity, which is divided into two nasal passages. Air moves through these passages during breathing.
- The most common type of sinus and nasal cavity cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer forms in the squamous cells (thin, flat cells) lining the inside of the sinuses and the nasal cavity.
- Other types of sinus and nasal cavity cancer include the following:
- Melanoma: Cancer that starts in cells called melanocytes, the cells that give skin its natural color.
- Sarcoma: Cancer that starts in muscle or connective tissue.
- Inverting papilloma: Benign tumors that form inside the nose. A small number of these change into cancer.
- Midline granulomas: Cancer of tissues in the middle part of the face.
- The throat also is called the pharynx. It’s a hollow tube inside the neck that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the windpipe and esophagus. Throat cancer includes cancer of the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat behind the nose), the oropharynx (the middle part of the pharynx) and the hypopharynx (the bottom part of the pharynx). Most throat cancers are squamous-cell carcinomas (cancer that begins in thin, flat cells that look like fish scales).
Why you should choose The University of Kansas Cancer Center
Recognized for quality
The University of Kansas Cancer Center is among a select few in the country, and the region's first, to earn National Cancer Institute designation.
U.S. News and World Report's Best Hospitals 2012-13 ranked The University of Kansas Hospital among the top 50 for ear, nose and throat care and cancer services.
Multidisciplinary patient care
We take an inclusive approach to helping patients and their families navigate thorugh the diagnosis, treatment and recovery processes. Available services include nutritional counseling, social work, cancer research resources and support groups. Our rehabilitation specialists help patients regain function after treatment and surgery. Speech therapy, swallowing therapy, reconstructive and cosmetic rehabilitation are often part of the treatment for head and neck cancer patients.
The University of Kansas Cancer Center has many convenient locations across the region. Inpatient care is provided at The University of Kansas Hospital, located one mile south of I-35 at 39th Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas.
All patients receive access to trials that may provide treatment options not available elsewhere. Trials may study innovative radiation and drug therapies, functional and quality-of-life assessments, and supportive care interventions.
To make an appointment:
Toll free: 800.332.6048
Toll free call: 877.588.5862