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The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on November 04, 2020.

Head and neck cancer symptoms

The ears, nose and throat are the most common areas affected by head and neck cancers. Symptoms of this cancer may depend on where the cancer develops and how it spreads.

For example, tumors in the larynx or pharynx may be discovered as a lump in the throat. Cancer in the mouth may cause sores in the mouth or swelling of the jaw.

In addition to physical signs of head and neck cancer, these tumors often cause symptoms that are similar to less serious conditions, like the common cold. Changes in voice, headaches, sore throat or a cough may be symptoms of throat cancer. Pain or ringing in the ears may also accompany certain head and neck cancers.

Some common symptoms of head and neck cancer tumors include:

  • A lump in the nose, neck or throat, with or without pain
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent coughing
  • Change in voice or hoarseness
  • Ear pain or trouble hearing
  • Headaches
  • A red or white patch in the mouth
  • Bad breath that's unexplained by hygiene
  • Nasal obstruction or persistent congestion
  • Frequent nose bleeds or unusual discharge
  • Trouble breathing

Learn about treatments for head and neck cancer

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