Head and Neck Cancer: Patient Education

Speaking very generally, it’s a serious problem when you have cancer of your mouth or cancer of your throat. It’s not a trivial matter, but you’ve come to a center where people know how to take care of this and you need to be hopeful. This is a serious matter, but you’re in the right place, and we’re going to take care of it.

D. Randall Pinkston, MD; Chief – Section of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology


Head and neck cancer generally refers to cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract — from the base of your neck upward to include:

  • Lips and oral cavity
  • Nose and sinuses
  • Throat and voice box

It includes all of the upper structures involved in breathing and eating.

Head and neck cancers do not include cancers in the:

  • Esophagus
  • Trachea
  • Thyroid gland
  • Brain

Most Common Places to Get Head & Neck Cancer

The majority of head and neck cancers begin in your:

Oral Cavity – Your Mouth

  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Palate

Larynx – Your Voice Box

  • An orchid-looking structure
  • Houses your vocal cords

Pharynx – Your Throat

  • Nasopharynx – at the back of your nose right up against your skull base
  • Oropharynx – the part of your throat that you see when you open your mouth
  • Hypopharynx – surrounds your voice box (larynx), which leads to your esophagus

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Types of Head & Neck Cancers

The five primary types of head and neck cancers are:

In general, cancers that originate in different parts of your aerodigestive system are diagnosed and treated differently.

For more information, please select from the different head and neck cancers listed above.

Related Resources

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