What are head and neck cancers?
Cancers of the head and neck usually start in mouth, tongue, palate, gums, salivary glands, tonsils, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), nose and sinuses.
Most head and neck cancers start in the cells that line the mucosa, the moist surfaces of the mouth, nose or throat. These are called squamous cell carcinomas.
Specialist treatment and support for young people diagnosed with head and neck cancers
Specialist treatment and support for young people with cancer aged 15-25 is provided by the Youth Cancer Services (YCS) based in major hospitals throughout Australia. Canteen also offers events and other support for young people with cancer.
Types of head and neck cancers
Head and neck cancers are classified according to the area in which they begin.
Mouth cancer is also called oral cancer. It is a rare cancer that mainly occurs in the lips, tongue or the floor of the mouth, but can also start in the cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth, tonsils and salivary gland.
Visit the Cancer Council website for more information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of mouth cancer.
Nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses cancer
The nasal cavity is the large, hollow space inside the nose. The paranasal sinuses are the spaces within the bones behind the nose and cheeks and nasal cavity.
The most common type of cancer of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinus is squamous cell carcinoma, which forms in the cells that line the insides of the sinuses and nasal cavity.
Melanomas and sarcomas can also occur in these areas of the face.
Throat cancer generally means cancers that start in the pharynx, the tube that runs from the back of the nose into the neck or larynx (voice box). It can also cover cancers that start in the oesophagus (food pipe) or thyroid gland.
The two main types of throat cancer are:
- Cancer of the pharynx (pharyngeal cancer)
- Cancer of the larynx (laryngeal cancer)
Visit the Cancer Council website for more information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of throat cancer.
The thyroid gland, situated at the throat of the throat, produces hormones that regulate body temperature, heart rate and metabolism.
The most common types of thyroid cancer are:
- Papillary thyroid cancer, which usually grows in a lobe of the thyroid gland and makes up about 70 to 80% of cases
- Follicular thyroid cancer, which develops in the follicular cells and makes up about 15 to 20% of cases
Rarer types of thyroid cancer include medullary and anaplastic cancers.
Thyroid cancer is one of the most common cancers in adolescents and young people.
Visit the Cancer Council website for more information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer.
Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with a head or neck cancer? Get support here:
Counselling and individual support
Canteen's counsellors and psychologists are specially trained to understand the challenges that cancer brings. Our counselling services are confidential and completely free.
Events & programs
Connect with other young people who know what you're going through and get some much-needed space away from the daily pressures of living with cancer.
When cancer’s in your life, Canteen is in your corner.
Cancer affects everyone differently. That’s why Canteen provides a wide range of support services to help you overcome the specific challenges you’re dealing with.