Cancers of head and neck usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck. Hence they are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. They can also begin in the salivary glands, but are relatively uncommon.
Salivary glands contain many different types of cells that can become cancerous. Alcohol and tobacco consumption (including smokeless tobacco, sometimes called “chewing tobacco” or “snuff”) are the two major risk factors for cancers, especially cancers of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx.
The symptoms of head and neck cancers may include a lump or a sore that does not heal, a sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice. Head and neck cancers are a heterogeneous group of malignancies, affecting various sites and subsites, with a range of histologies and etiological factors. The incidence of cancers was estimated in 2012 at ∼113 500 cases, almost 75% of which were in men.