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Head and neck cancer is the term given to cancers that start in the head and neck region, beginning in any of these places:

  • Mouth, also called the oral cavity
  • Nasal cavity, the passage behind the nose
  • Paranasal sinuses, which are the spaces around the nose, lined with cells that make mucus. They also provide a space that allows the voice to echo when you are talking or singing.
  • Salivary glands, the glands that make saliva
  • Throat, known as the pharynx
  • Voice box, called the larynx

Different types of head and neck cancers include: 

  • Thyroid cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Tongue cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • Pharyngeal cancer

Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

Many people with head and neck cancer experience symptoms such as:

  • A growth or sore in the mouth
  • A lump in the neck
  • A lump or sore inside the nose that will not heal
  • A sore throat that does not go away
  • Blocked sinuses that will not clear
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Cough or hoarseness that does not go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking, or breathing
  • Frequent headache or pain around the nose, cheeks, jaws, or forehead
  • Frequent nosebleeds or ones that don't stop
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness in the face
  • Pain in the ear
  • Swelling of the eyes or under the chin or around the jaw
  • Vomiting

These symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other problems. It is important to see a doctor about any symptoms like these so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Treatments

Treatment for head and neck cancer may include the following:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Clinical trials

Meet Our Head and Neck Doctors

Medical Oncology

John Deeken, MD

A member of Inova Medical Group
The doctors of Inova Medical Group are Inova’s premier primary care and specialty physicians, offering top-notch medical expertise, full access to Inova facilities, and the convenience of integrated electronic medical records.
Specialty: Medical Oncology
Board-certified specialties granted by an ABMS Member Board. Learn more about board certification.
Clinical Interests: Head and Neck Cancer, Personalized Medicine, Pharmacogenetics
Areas of special interest identified by the physician or additional training completed.
Years of Experience: 18

Cancer Surgery

William Purkert, MD

A member of Inova Medical Group
The doctors of Inova Medical Group are Inova’s premier primary care and specialty physicians, offering top-notch medical expertise, full access to Inova facilities, and the convenience of integrated electronic medical records.
Specialty: Surgery
Board-certified specialties granted by an ABMS Member Board. Learn more about board certification.
Clinical Interests: Thyroid Cancer, Thyroid Disorders
Areas of special interest identified by the physician or additional training completed.
Years of Experience: 40

Radiation Oncology

Gopal Bajaj, MD

Gopal Bajaj, MD

Specialty: Radiation Oncology
Board-certified specialties granted by an ABMS Member Board. Learn more about board certification.
Clinical Interests: Ear Nose and Throat, Head and Neck Cancer, Lung Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer, Prostate Cancer
Areas of special interest identified by the physician or additional training completed.
Years of Experience: 19