Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Head & Neck Cancer

Most head and neck cancers begin in the cells that make up the lining of the mouth and throat. If the cancer starts in the salivary glands, which lie beneath the surface lining, the tumor will usually be classified as a mucoepidermoid carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, or adenoid cystic carcinoma.

Types of head and neck cancer

There are five main types of head and neck cancer, each named according to the part of the body where they start.

  • Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: The oral cavity includes the mouth and tongue. The oropharynx includes the middle of the throat from the tonsils to the tip of the voice box.
  • Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer: The larynx (commonly called the voice box) is a tube-shaped organ in the neck that is important for breathing, talking, and swallowing. It is located at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. The hypopharynx is the lower part of the throat that surrounds the larynx.
  • Salivary Gland Cancer: The salivary gland is tissue that produces saliva, which is the fluid that is released into the mouth to keep it moist and begin the process of digestion.
  • Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer: The nasal cavity is the space just behind the nose where air passes on the way to the throat. The paranasal sinuses are the air-filled areas that surround the nasal cavity.
  • Nasopharyngeal Cancer: The nasopharynx is the air passageway at the upper part of the throat behind the nose.

In addition to these malignant tumors, sarcoma can originate in the bone and soft tissue of this region, and lymphoma often originates in the lymphoid tissue located here. Finally, melanoma and basal/squamous cell cancer also occur commonly in the sun exposed skin of this region. Information covering these malignancies is found under their respective site disease groups.

Multidisciplinary Treatment

At Sylvester, we use a multidisciplinary, site-based, and personalized approach for treating cancer. This means that multidisciplinary teams of dedicated, board-certified doctors with expertise studying and treating specific types of cancer oversee care. This approach provides each individual patient with treatment protocols from physicians who are not just cancer specialists, but sub-specialists in the particular type of cancer. Our team of head and neck surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, and pathologists work together to determine the most effective treatment protocol for each individual patient. This may involve the possibility of participating in one of our many clinical trials, which provide access to the latest concepts for improving outcomes.
Each patient’s quality of life is also very important to us. Skilled speech and swallowing therapists are an integral part of our team, and work closely with patients to help them achieve their full potential after cancer treatment. In addition, a full range of support services help with healing mind and body.

Treatment at Sylvester is designed to give each of our patients their best chance to survive and thrive.

For Sylvester survival results compared to the National average, click on outcomes found on left of this page.

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