Head, Neck, Throat and Mouth Cancers

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Head, Neck and Throat Cancers

Head, neck, and throat cancers account for approximately 4% of all cancers in the United States. Those cancers usually begin in the cells that line the surfaces of the head and neck, including inside the mouth, throat, voice box, and nasal cavity. Alcohol and tobacco use are the two most common risk factors for head and neck cancers.


Avoiding alcohol and tobacco is the best way to lower your risk of getting head or neck cancer. Contact your health care provider if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Lump or thickening in the throat.
  • Trouble or pain when swallowing food.
  • Persistent pain in the throat.
  • Pain or ringing in the ears.
  • Blocked sinuses or sinus infections that don’t respond to antibiotics.
  • Problems with dentures fitting.

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Mouth Cancer

Oral cancers originate in the front two-thirds of the tongue, gums, lining of the cheeks, lips, bottom of the mouth under the tongue, top of the mouth, and a small area of gum behind the wisdom teeth. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your dental provider:

  • White or red sore on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth that does not heal.
  • Swelling in the jaw.
  • Lump in the gums or lining of the mouth.
  • Pain or problems with dentures.


An oral cancer screening is an essential part of each dental checkup. Talk with your dental provider to discuss these screenings.

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