Head and Neck Cancer
Cancers of the head and neck account for 3 percent of all malignancies in the United States.1 According to Cancer Facts & Figures 2012, there were an estimated 80,500 new cases of head and neck cancers diagnosed in the United States. Head and neck cancer deaths totaled 15,700 in 2012.
Most head and neck cancers begin in the cells that line the mucosal surfaces in the head and neck area, e.g., mouth, nose, and throat. Mucosal surfaces are moist tissues lining hollow organs and cavities of the body open to the environment. Normal mucosal cells look like scales (squamous) under the microscope, so head and neck cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas. Some head and neck cancers begin in other types of cells. For example, cancers that begin in glandular cells are called adenocarcinomas.
Cancers of the head and neck are further identified by the area in which they begin: