Head, Neck and Oral Cancers: About Head, Neck and Oral Cancers

This type of cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to form in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, pharynx (the cavity behind the nose and mouth connecting to the esophagus), or larynx (voice box).

Head and neck also affect the thyroid gland that wraps around the windpipe (trachea) toward the bottom of the throat.

Tumors in the head and neck are categorized as primary or secondary.

Primary tumors originate in the head or neck itself, including the thyroid, throat, larynx, salivary gland, brain, or other locations. Primary tumors of this kind typically spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.

Secondary cancers are tumors that have spread from primary tumors in other parts of the body to the head or neck. Most often, secondary tumors of the neck originate in the lung, breast, kidney, or from melanomas in the skin. Cancers in the nasal and sinus passages may spread to the brain through nerves in the skull.

What are the different types of head, neck and oral tumors?

Squamous Cell Carcinomas The majority of head and neck cancers are called squamous cell carcinomas. These tumors arise in squamous cells that are found in the lining of the mouth, nose and throat. A tumor restricted to this layer of cells is called a carcinoma in situ (in one place.) A tumor that grows beyond the squamous cell and moves into deeper tissues is called an invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

Adenocarcinomas This type of tumor starts in the cells of the salivary glands.