Types of Head and Neck Cancer

There are several types of head and neck cancer, all of which originate in or around the mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), nose or sinuses. In most cases, the cancer develops in the squamous cells that comprise the thin, surface layer (epithelium) of the head and neck structures. Directly under the epithelium is a layer of moist tissue (mucosa). If a cancer is confined to the squamous cells, it is called carcinoma in situ; if it has grown beyond the mucosa into deeper tissue, it is called invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

The specific types of head and neck cancer include:

  • Hypopharyngeal cancer – Forms in the tissues of the hypopharynx (the area in the lower throat where the larynx and esophagus meet)
  • Laryngeal cancer – Forms within the voice box, which contains the vocal cords and epiglottis and attaches to the top of the trachea (wind pipe)
  • Lip and oral cavity cancer – Forms in the lips, gums, cheek lining, floor of the mouth, hard palate or areas behind the wisdom teeth
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer – Forms in the tissues of the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat situated behind the nose
  • Oropharyngeal cancer – Forms in the tissues of the oropharynx, the middle section of the throat that includes the soft palate, base of the tongue and tonsils
  • Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer – Forms in the sinuses or hollow space inside the nose
  • Salivary gland cancer – Forms in the saliva-producing glands located below the ears, under the tongue or below the jawbone
  • Metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary – Metastasizes to the lymph nodes in the neck from an unknown origin

The prognosis for head and neck cancer can be very good if the condition is promptly diagnosed and treated. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer innovative testing techniques, specialized diagnostic services and evidence-based approaches to treatment. To ensure highly individualized treatment and the best possible quality of life for every person we treat, each patient’s case is evaluated and monitored by a multispecialty team of experts. As a high-volume cancer center, Moffitt achieves patient outcomes that consistently outrank the national average, and we provide our patients with enhanced quality of life.

If you’d like to learn more about the different types 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.