Head and Neck Cancer

Most forms of head and neck cancer begin in the squamous cells lining the mouth, salivary glands, nose, throat and other moist surfaces in this region of the body. Cancers affecting the brain, eye, esophagus, scalp, skin, muscles, bones, thyroid and endocrine system are not usually included in this group. Additionally, cancerous squamous cells sometimes develop in the lymph nodes when there is no evidence of cancer elsewhere in the head or neck; this type of cancer is known as metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult (unknown) primary.

Head and neck cancer is broadly categorized based on the area of the head or neck in which it begins. These categories include:

  • Oral cavity – This region includes the lips, gums, cheek lining, front two-thirds of the tongue, bottom of the mouth and hard palate (roof of the mouth).
  • Throat (pharynx) – This three-part hollow tube originates behind the nose (nasopharynx), extends downward through the soft palate (oropharynx) and ends at the top of the esophagus (hypopharynx).
  • Voice box (larynx) – A short passageway that is formed by cartilage below the pharynx, the larynx contains the vocal cords and epiglottis, a small piece of tissue that covers the larynx to prevent food from entering the air passages.
  • Salivary glands – These saliva-producing glands are located on the floor of the mouth, under the ears and near the jawbone.
  • Paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity – This region consists of small hollow spaces in the bones surrounding the nose and the hollow space inside the nose.

In many cases, head and neck cancer is related to tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Studies show that the risk level increases substantially for individuals who consume both tobacco and alcohol.

Our Approach

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Head and Neck Cancer Program features a multispecialty team of physicians, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other professionals who have world-class expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of malignant and benign tumors of the head and neck. Our comprehensive approach is evidence-based, and we offer advanced screening, diagnosis and treatment options, including a robust clinical trials program through which our patients have access to promising new treatments before they are made widely available in other settings. We are also a high-volume surgery center, and our head and neck surgeons are regarded among the best in the nation.

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, Moffitt is well known and respected throughout the nation. With extensive clinical and research expertise, Moffitt has firmly established itself as a leader in transforming cancer treatment for all patients.

If you’d like to learn more about treatment options for all forms of head and neck cancer, the experts at Moffitt can help. Call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.

Note: Moffitt's Head and Neck Program does not treat the following conditions: Sinus congestions, rhinitis, sinusitis, nasal or sinus allergies, nasal polyps (unless cancerous), sinus polyps (unless cancerous), tonsillitis (acute or chronic), sore throats, post-nasal drainage, "glue ear”/ear congestion, vertigo /labarynthitis, Meniere’s disease, tinnitus, deafness/hearing loss, Acoustic neuroma, or Subglottic stenosis. Please contact the USF Department of Otolaryngology to make an appointment at 813-974-2201.