What is head
and neck cancer?
Cancers of the oral cavity are cancers that develop on the lips or in
the mouth itself, including the inner lining of the lips and cheeks
(also known as the ‘buccal mucosa’), gums, hard part of the roof of
the mouth (‘hard palate’), tongue, and under the tongue (mouth floor).
Cancer of the nose includes cancers in the skin of the nostril and
the lining of the nose. There is also cancer of the nasopharynx, which
develops in the highest part of the throat, and cancer of the
paranasal sinuses, which develops in the lining of the air spaces (known
as sinuses) that lie alongside the nose in the bones of the face.
Cancer may also occur in the hypopharynx, the tube below the
Cancer may also occur in the oropharynx, the tube joining the nose
to the throat. This includes the base of the tongue, the soft part of
the roof of the mouth (‘soft palate’), and the sides and back of the
throat, including the tonsils.
Cancers of the larynx tend to start on, or close to, one of the
vocal cords. The larynx is also known as the ‘voice box’ or ‘Adam’s
apple’. If you run your fingertips down the front of your throat, you
will feel your larynx as a bump that moves up and down as you swallow.
This bump is bigger in men than in women.
Other types of head and neck cancer are more rare, and include
lymphoma, sarcoma and melanoma.