Head and neck cancers

Head and neck cancers

Types of head and neck cancers

Head and neck cancers is a general term that doctors use – it covers any cancer that occurs in this area of the body.

There are over 30 different places that cancer can develop in the head and neck area, including the:

  • Mouth (including lip).
  • Thyroid gland.
  • Voice box (larynx).
  • Salivary glands.
  • Nose and sinuses.
  • Throat (pharynx).


The symptoms of head and neck cancers will vary depending on the type but signs include:

  • An ulcer in the mouth that doesn’t heal within a few weeks.
  • Red or white patches in the mouth that don’t go away within a few weeks.
  • Difficulty swallowing or pain when chewing or swallowing.
  • Changes to your voice such as hoarseness (for over 3 weeks).
  • A constant sore throat.
  • A swelling or lump in the face, mouth or neck (for over 3 weeks).

Although these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer, it’s still important to have them checked out by your GP or dentist early.

For a more detailed list of the different types of head and neck cancers, and the symptoms specific to them, visit NHS Inform or call 0800 22 44 88.

Worried about a friend or family member?

If you know anyone who is concerned about any of these symptoms, encourage them to visit their doctor. It’s probably nothing serious but it could be a sign of something that needs treatment.


  1. Head and neck cancers are the sixth most common cancer in Scotland.
  2. The five year survival rate for people diagnosed with head and neck cancers is over 58%.
  3. There are around 1,200 new cases of head and neck cancers diagnosed every year in Scotland.
  4. Incidence rates of head and neck cancers have increased by 3.2% in the last 10 years.

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Further help

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