What is head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the head or neck grow in an uncontrolled way.

In cancer medicine, the head and neck area includes the:

  • mouth, including the lips, tongue and gums
  • throat (also called the pharynx)
  • voice box (also called the larynx)
  • nose, including the nasal cavity (the area behind the nose) and sinuses
  • salivary glands, which are in the floor of the mouth and near the lower jaw
  • skin of the head and neck
  • lymph nodes in the head and neck.

The head and neck area does not include the:

  • brain
  • eyes
  • thyroid (a gland at the front of the neck that produces hormones)
  • oesophagus (also called the food pipe)
  • trachea (also called the windpipe)
  • bones and muscles of the head and neck.