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Head and Neck Cancer

Cancers in head and neck region include the cancers in mouth, nose, and throat. These cancers arise in the moist cells (mucosal surfaces) that line the hollow organs and cavities. Head and neck cancers are also called as squamous cell carcinomas. Head and neck cancers may arise in different areas including mouth, nose, sinuses, lips, salivary glands, throat and lymph nodes in the neck.

Head and neck cancers affect nearly 3–5% of people in the U.S with higher rates in men and people aged above 50 years. Human papilloma virus infection is a major causative agent of oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the soft palate, and back one-third of the mouth, extending to the middle part of the throat). The virus can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact. Many with HPV infection of the mouth and throat do not show any symptoms, while very few develop oropharyngeal cancer. Use of tobacco and alcohol are two other important risk factors for head and neck cancers. Other risk factors include:

  • Exposure to sun
  • Exposure to radiations
  • Industrial or occupational exposure to wood dust, nickel, asbestos, lead and others
  • Dust inhalation
  • Epstein-Barr virus infections
  • Certain preservatives or salted foods
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Plummer-Vinson syndrome
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Genetics

Our doctors diagnose the cancer by physical examination, endoscopy, X-rays, computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging scan, positron emission tomography scan and biopsy.

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Who should be seen?

Anyone who has a mass or abnormal lesion in or on the:

  • Skin
  • Scalp
  • Face
  • Ear
  • Nose
  • Lip
  • Tongue
  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Neck

Anyone with a diagnosis of cancer, tumor or mass in the:

  • Skin
  • Cheek
  • Maxilla
  • Mandible
  • Nose
  • Sinuses
  • Nasopharynx
  • Lip
  • Mouth
  • Oral cavity
  • Floor of mouth
  • Gingiva (gums)
  • Buccal mucosa
  • Tongue
  • Uvula
  • Palate
  • Throat
  • Hypopharynx
  • Larynx (voice box)
  • Trachea
  • Esophagus
  • Neck
  • Salivary glands
  • Parotid gland
  • Submandibular gland
  • Thyroid
  • Parathyroid
  • Ear
  • Temporal bone
  • Petrous apex
  • Skull base
  • Posterior fossa
  • Middle fossa
  • Cerbellopontine angle


Treatment of head and neck cancer is based on the type and location of cancer, severity or grade, and patient characteristics. Various modalities include chemotherapy, radiation treatment, surgical excision of cancers, and combination approach. Rehabilitation procedures are recommended after the treatment.

For more information, please check Head and Neck Cancer

Meet Our Providers

Robert DeFatta

Robert J.DeFatta
M.D. PhD

Facial Plastic Surgeon

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Rima Abraham

Rima A. DeFatta


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