Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Types of head and neck cancer

Every head and neck cancer patient is different. The cancer experts at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) have extensive experience in staging and diagnosing the disease, and developing a treatment plan that’s tailored to your specific type of cancer.

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Head and neck cancers are classified according to the part of the body in which they occur. Risk factors, diagnosis and treatment may vary depending on the subtype of the disease.

  • Laryngeal cancer: The larynx is located at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. Also called the voice box, this tube-shaped organ is involved in breathing, talking and swallowing. The larynx also contains the epiglottis, a small piece of tissue that moves to cover the larynx and prevent food from entering the windpipe. Laryngeal cancer, a type of throat cancer, is one of the most common forms of head and neck cancer. Patients with laryngeal cancer often need voice rehabilitation after treatment to learn how to speak again. 
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer: The hypopharynx is the lower part of the throat, which surrounds the larynx. This part of the body is also called the gullet. Hypopharyngeal cancer is a type of throat cancer.
  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer: Nasal cavity cancer forms in the space just behind the nose, where air passes on its way to the throat. This type of cancer may also develop in the air-filled areas that surround the nasal cavity, called the paranasal sinuses. Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer are uncommon.
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer: The nasopharynx is an air passage located at the very upper part of the throat, just behind the nose. Nasopharyngeal cancer is a type of throat cancer.
  • Salivary gland cancer: The salivary glands produce the saliva responsible for breaking down food. Salivary gland cancer is uncommon.
  • Oral cancer: Oral cancer forms in the mouth. The oral cavity includes the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, the gums, the front of the tongue, the floor of the mouth, and the roof of the mouth. Oral cancer is the ninth most common cancer among men.
  • Oropharyngeal cancer: Oropharyngeal cancer forms in the oropharynx, which is the part of the throat just behind the mouth. The oropharynx includes the base of the tongue, the back of the roof of the mouth, the tonsils, and the side and back walls of the throat. Human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as tobacco and alcohol use, may increase a person's risk of oropharyngeal cancer.

Patients with laryngeal, hypopharyngeal and oropharyngeal cancers, particularly cancers of the tonsil, base of tongue and some areas of the voice box, may be candidates for flexible robotic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure designed to access hard-to-reach tumors with less scarring and damage to tissue.

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