Information for Patients
Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat, and lymph nodes in the neck. Most begin in the moist tissues that line the mouth, nose, and throat. Symptoms include
- A lump or sore that does not heal
- A sore throat that does not go away
- Trouble swallowing
- A change or hoarseness in the voice
Head and neck cancers are twice as common in men. Using tobacco or alcohol increases your risk. In fact, around 75 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use, including smoking and smokeless tobacco. Infection with HPV is a risk factor for some head and neck cancers.
To diagnose head and neck cancer, your doctor will do a physical exam and diagnostic tests. You will have a biopsy, where a sample of tissue is taken out and examined under a microscope. It is the only test that can tell for sure if you have cancer.
If found early, these cancers are often curable. Treatments may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination. Treatments can affect eating, speaking or even breathing, so patients may need rehabilitation.
NIH: National Cancer Institute
Your trachea, or windpipe, is one part of your airway system. Airways are pipes that carry oxygen-rich air to your lungs. They also carry carbon dioxide, a waste gas, out of your lungs.
When you inhale, air travels from your nose, through your larynx, and down your windpipe. The windpipe splits into two bronchi that enter your lungs.
Problems with the trachea include narrowing, inflammation, and some inherited conditions. You may need a procedure called a tracheostomy to help you breathe if you have swallowing problems, or have conditions that affect coughing or block your airways. You might also need a tracheostomy if you are in critical care and need to be on a breathing machine.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute