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Head and Neck Cancer Overview

head and neck cancer screening infographic

More than 70,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancers each year, and men are nearly three times more likely than women to develop these cancers.

Head and neck cancers affect the nasal passages, sinuses, mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), swallowing passages, salivary glands, thyroid glands and the skin on the scalp, face or neck.

The Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center work together in a multidisciplinary approach to provide patients with the highest quality treatment. The Multidisciplinary Clinic sees patients who have been diagnosed with head or neck cancer and provides a comprehensive evaluation and consensus opinion from several disciplines in a single appointment.

Common symptoms of head and neck cancer sites include a lump, a sore that does not heal, difficulty swallowing and a change or hoarseness in the voice. About 85 percent of head and neck cancers, especially cancers presenting in the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx and larynx, are linked to tobacco use. Some types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are known to cause head and neck cancer. HPV related head and neck cancers primarily occur in the tonsils and on the back of the tongue.

Oral and Head and Neck Cancer | What You Need to Know

This recording from a Facebook Live event includes head and neck surgeon Christine Gourin and speech-language pathologist Rina Abrams, as they discuss your questions about head and neck cancer. Learn about the warning signs, treatments and rehabilitation following treatment.


Head and Neck Cancer Care

Our team of experts uses clinical exams, imaging and specialized pathologic tests to diagnose patients with the various types of head and neck cancer.

After providing a diagnosis, our specialists meet with each patient to develop an individualized treatment plan aimed at defeating the cancer and preserving each patient's quality of life. Treatment plans can include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery.  Some patients, especially those with early-stage tumors with minimally lymph node involvement, are good candidates for minimally invasive transoral robotic surgery.

Head and neck cancers and their treatments can cause changes in speech and swallowing abilities. Our physicians work to preserve these functions by offering patients any necessary forms of post surgery rehabilitation.  Some patients will also require post-treatment reconstructive surgeries, such as anaplastology, dental implants or the free flap procedure.

The Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery Center

Dr. David Eisele, Director of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, and Dr. Wayne Koch, Director of the Head and Neck Cancer Center, discuss the innovative and collaborative approach used by the team at the Head and Neck Cancer Center. Our team of experts, working with the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, includes head and neck cancer surgeons, skull base surgeons, speech-language pathologists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists. The team provides personalized patient care and conducts innovative research.