This year, more than 50,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with head and neck cancers. Head and neck cancers account for five percent of all cancers diagnosed in men in the U.S. and about two percent of cancer diagnoses for women. Men over the age of 40 are at the greatest risk of developing head and neck cancers. If detected early, head and neck cancers are highly treatable and the cure rate is good. (Cancer of the larynx generally is diagnosed early because the symptoms manifest themselves early.)
The most common sites for head and neck cancers are the oral cavity, pharynx, mouth and tongue. Head and neck cancers occur above the collarbone and typically fall into one of the following types:
- Oral cavity & oropharyngeal cancer
- Laryngeal & hypopharyngeal cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Salivary gland cancer
- Nasopharyngeal cancer
The most common type of malignant tumor of the head and neck area is squamous cell cancer. Squamous cell cancer (also known as squamous cell carcinoma or SCCA) begins as a malignancy in the squamous cells. Squamous cells are flat, scale-like cells typically found in the lining of the mouth, nose and throat.
Although 90 percent of head and neck cancers are classified as squamous cell carcinoma (SCCA), SCCA is not the only type of malignancy found in the head and neck region. Melanomas on the inside of the nose and various types of lymphomas in the neck are classified as head and neck cancers, too. Tumors of the brain, however, are not.
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