Skip to main content
Explore URMC


URMC / Otolaryngology (ENT) / Conditions We Treat / Head and Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

What are Head and Neck Cancers?

Head and neck cancers are cancers that usually begin in the squamous cells that line the structures found in the head and neck. The types of head and neck cancer that we treat include:

Cancers of the brain and eye are not included in this category of head and neck cancers. Cancers of the scalp, skin, muscles and bones of the neck are also usually not considered cancers of the head and neck.

Risk Factors

Risk factors vary according to the type of head or neck cancer. Consistently, though, tobacco and alcohol use are strongly linked to the development of any of these types of cancers. In fact, 85% of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use, and people who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk or developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms vary according to the type of head or neck cancer. Below are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Lump or sore that does not heal
  • Sore throat that does not go away
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Change or hoarseness in the voice
  • Bringing up blood
  • Changes in the skin around the forehead, face and ears
  • Persistent earache

Diagnosing Head and Neck Cancers

Diagnosing a head or neck cancer will begin with a physical exam. Dependent upon your symptoms and results of the physical exam, further screening tests will be prescribed based upon the type of cancer suspected.

Treatment Options

The ENT physician will work with you to develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs. This plan will be developed based on the type of cancer diagnosed, the stage of the cancer (how far it has progressed), the grade of the tumor (rate of growth), as well as your age and general health.

Below are the most common treatment options for head and neck cancers:

Support Groups

The Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Connection (local chapter of SPOHNC Support for People with Oral, Head and Neck Cancer) meets on the first Thursday of the month. For more information or to join the local chapter, please contact Sandra Sabatka at 585-275-6426.