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Head and Neck Cancers

Facts About Head and Neck Cancers

  • The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 53,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2015. Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the oral cavity, tongue, tonsils, throat, larynx (voicebox), and surrounding tissues.
  • More than 11,000 people in the U.S. are expected to die from head and neck cancers in 2015.
  • A majority of these cancers are associated with smoking and other forms of tobacco use. A recent rise in cases of oropharyngeal cancer is linked to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV).

Treating Head and Neck Cancers

The approach to treating head and neck cancer depends on several factors, including the type of cancer; tumor size, stage, and location; and your overall health. Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the mainstays of treating head and neck cancers.

  • For many head and neck cancers, combining two or three types of treatment may be the most effective approach. This is why it is important to talk to several cancer specialists about your care, including a surgeon, a radiation oncologist, and a medical oncologist.
  • An important concept in treating head and neck cancers is organ preservation, so that patients maintain their ability to chew or taste food. An organ-preservation approach employs radiation and sometimes chemotherapy to shrink or completely eliminate a tumor. This can allow some patients to avoid surgery.

For More Information

Visit the National Cancer Institute