What is Head and Neck cancer?

Head and neck cancer include cancers in the:

  • mouth and lips
  • voice box (larynx)
  • throat (pharynx)
  • salivary glands
  • nose and sinuses
  • area at the back of the nose and mouth (nasopharynx)

Some terms used by the head and neck cancer team may not be very familiar. The diagram below shows you the named parts of your head and neck so you can get a better idea of where your cancer is situated.

Types of head and neck cancer

Head and neck cancers are also described based on the type of cell (histology) the cancer started in.  The most common type of head and neck cancer is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).  About 9 out of 10 head and neck cancers (90%) start on squamous cells.  Squamous cells line the mouth, nose and throat.

A small amount of head and neck cancers develop in other types of cells.  These include sarcoma, lymphomas and adenocarcinomas.

diagram of the head showing potential areas for developing cancer