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Types can be based on location or cell type


There are several types of head and neck cancer, classified according to the part of the body in which they occur. Because risk factors, diagnosis and treatment can vary depending on the subtype, complete information for each subtype of head and neck cancer is provided separately.

  • Laryngeal cancer: The larynx is located at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. Also called the voice box, this tube-shaped organ is involved in breathing, talking and swallowing.
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer: The hypopharynx is the lower part of the throat, which surrounds the larynx. This part of the body is also called the gullet.
  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer: Behind the nose is a space where air passes on its way to the throat. This region is called the nasal cavity. The air-filled areas surrounding the nasal cavity are the paranasal sinuses.
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer: The nasopharynx is an air passage located at the very upper part of the throat, just behind the nose.
  • Salivary gland cancer: The salivary glands make saliva, which is essential for breaking down food.
  • Oral and oropharyngeal cancer: Both the mouth and the tongue are part of the oral cavity. The oropharynx is the middle of the throat, extending from the tonsils to the top of the larynx. Visit our Oral Cancer section to learn more about this type of head and neck cancer, including how it is diagnosed and the treatment options available. From www.cancercenter.com

Based on cell type

Squamous cell carcinoma: More than 90% of cancers that occur in the oral cavity and oropharynx are squamous cell carcinoma. Normally, the throat and mouth are lined with so-called squamous cells, which are flat and arranged in a scale-like way. Squamous cell carcinoma means that some squamous cells are abnormal.

Verrucous carcinoma: About 5% of all oral cavity tumors are verrucous carcinoma, which is a type of very slow-growing cancer made up of squamous cells. This type of oral cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but can invade the tissue surrounding the site of origin.

Minor salivary gland carcinomas: This category includes several kinds of oral cancer that can develop on the minor salivary glands, which are found throughout the lining of the mouth and throat. These types include adenoid cystic carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, and polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma.

Lymphomas: Oral cancers that develop in lymph tissue, which is part of the immune system, are known as lymphomas. The tonsils and base of the tongue both contain lymphoid tissue. See our pages on Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma for cancer information related to lymphomas in the oral cavity.

Diana Ayling