Head and Neck Cancer: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment


Throat cancer is a broad term for cancer cells that form in the tissues in or leading to and from the throat. Throat cancers can develop in different parts of the throat, and each type has different characteristics.

Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer is specific to the larynx, which is also called the voice box, located in the middle of your neck. The larynx contains vocal cords that help you speak. Symptoms of laryngeal cancer may include a sore throat, hoarseness, or cough that doesn’t improve.

Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Nasopharyngeal cancer forms in the cells that line the nasopharynx, which is the upper part of the pharynx (throat) behind the nose. The pharynx is a hollow tube that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus. The nostrils lead into the nasopharynx, and an opening on each side of the nasopharynx leads into an ear.

Signs of nasopharyngeal cancer include a lump in the nose or neck, a sore throat that won’t heal, difficulty breathing or speaking, headaches, nosebleeds, and pain or ringing in the ear.

Oropharyngeal Cancer

Oropharyngeal cancer forms in the middle part of the throat, called the oropharynx, which makes saliva and keeps the mouth and throat moistened. It’s one of the rarer types of head and neck cancers, and typically involves the tonsils.

Oropharyngeal cancer is linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption. Symptoms may include a persistent sore throat, a lump in the neck or throat, difficulty swallowing, voice changes, white patches in the mouth, and coughing up blood.

Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Hypopharyngeal cancer is a rare form of throat cancer that forms in the bottom of the throat in an area called the hypopharynx, which is behind the larynx (voicebox) and just above the esophagus.

Symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, changes to your voice, a lump in the neck, a persistent sore throat, or pain and ringing in the ears.


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