What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?


Head and neck cancers may not cause symptoms in their early stages. The most common symptom for head and neck cancers is a lump in the neck, caused by a swollen lymph node. There can be many other symptoms, depending on where the cancer is.

Many conditions can cause these symptoms, not just head and neck cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.

Mouth cancers

The most common symptoms for mouth cancer are:

  • sores, swelling or pain in the mouth or jaw that won’t go away
  • a lump or thickening in the lips, mouth or cheek
  • unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • red or white patches on the gums, tongue, tonsils or lining of the mouth
  • a sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat that won’t go away
  • difficulty chewing or swallowing food, or moving the tongue or jaw
  • painful swallowing
  • bad breath
  • loose teeth or pain around the teeth
  • weight loss
  • changes in speech
  • earache.

Throat cancers

The most common symptoms for throat cancers are:

  • a sore throat or cough that won’t go away
  • dull pain around the neck
  • coughing up bloody mucus
  • difficulty swallowing or opening the mouth wide
  • bad breath
  • weight loss
  • feeling like you can’t breathe properly
  • a blocked nose
  • voice changes or hoarseness
  • earache, ringing in the ear, a feeling of fullness in one ear, or hearing loss
  • ear infections that aren’t caused by a cold and keep coming back
  • numb face
  • headaches.

Voice box cancers

The most common symptoms for voice box cancers are:

  • hoarseness of a change in the sound of your voice that won’t go away
  • a sore throat that doesn’t get better
  • difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing
  • coughing all the time
  • difficulty breathing
  • weight loss
  • earache.

Nose cancers

The most common symptoms for nose cancers are:

  • not being able to smell properly
  • a blocked nose or ear that won’t go away
  • frequent nosebleeds
  • lots of mucus in the throat or back of the nose
  • frequent headaches or sinus pressure
  • difficulty swallowing
  • loose or painful upper teeth
  • a lump on or in the face, nose or mouth
  • a numb face, upper lip or mouth
  • trouble opening the mouth
  • pressure or pain in the ears
  • a bulging or watery eye
  • pain above or below the eyes
  • double vision or loss of eyesight.

Salivary gland cancers

The most common symptoms for salivary gland cancers are:

  • swelling or a lump near the ear, jaw or lip, or inside the mouth
  • pain in the ear, jaw, neck or mouth that won’t go away
  • a difference in how the left and right side of the face or neck look
  • drooping, numbness or weakness on one side of the face
  • trouble opening the mouth widely
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fluid draining from an ear.