- What is head and neck cancer?  
- How does cancer arise?
- What causes head and neck cancer?  
- Can cancer of the head and neck be cured?  
- Symptoms of head and neck cancer  
- Referral to a specialist
- Diagnosis of head and neck cancer  
- Stage and grade of cancer  
- Treatment for head and neck cancer  
- Follow-up after treatment  
- Clinical trials


Symptoms of head and neck cancer

Many symptoms that can indicate head and neck cancers are quite common and are found with many other illnesses, so they don’t necessarily mean that you have cancer. However, it is important to see your doctor, particularly if the symptoms last for more than a few weeks. The symptoms of head and neck cancers vary, depending on the site of the cancer.

The symptoms of head and neck cancers include:

  • Numb feeling in the mouth
  • Bleeding in the mouth or throat
  • A swelling or lump in the mouth
  • A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal in a few weeks, or red and white patches that sometimes become sore or bleed
  • Pain or difficulty with swallowing or chewing
  • Persistent pain or numbness in the throat or part of the face
  • Persistent hoarse voice or a change in the voice, such as slurred speech
  • Difficulty when breathing, or noisy breathing
  • A persistent, blocked nose or sinuses, or nose bleeds
  • Swelling around the eyes or double vision
  • Pain in the face or upper jaw
  • Persistent earache, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), or difficulty in hearing
  • Swelling of one or more of the ‘glands’ (lymph nodes) in the neck. The first symptom of a head and neck cancer will sometimes be a painless swelling of one of these glands.

Symptoms specific to cancer of the larynx

Hoarseness is often the first symptom of cancer of the larynx, as even a small tumour can stop the vocal cords working properly. If the cancer has started elsewhere in the larynx, the first symptom may be a lump in the throat or neck, discomfort or pain on swallowing, continuous earache or an increasing feeling of breathlessness.