Head & Neck Cancer: Cut the Risk

Smoking (including secondhand smoke and smokeless tobacco, sometimes called “chewing tobacco” or “snuff”) is the number one risk factor for getting head and neck cancer. And people who use both tobacco and alcohol are many times more likely to get head and neck cancer than people with neither habit. Research has also shown that continued smoking by a patient with head and neck cancer may reduce the effectiveness of treatment and increase the chance of a second primary cancer.

RBOI is a member of the Tobacco Free Florida Partnership of Marion County. We support efforts to create tobacco-free environments and smoking cessation and prevention programs, especially those targeted to our youth. Wendy Hall, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Cancer Navigator at RBOI, is also a tobacco cessation specialist. Call her at 352-527-0106 for more information.

Know Your Symptoms

Hoarseness and voice changes can be a sign of head and neck cancer; see your doctor if they do not improve within two weeks. Head and neck cancers can also start away from the vocal cords and produce other symptoms. The most common is swelling or a sore that does not heal. Ot her symptoms include:

Persistent sore throat

Constant coughing

Pain/difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving jaw or tongue

Ear pain/infection

Trouble breathing

A lump, bump, or mass in head or neck

A red or white patch in the mouth

Foul mouth odor not explained by hygiene

Persistent nasal obstruction/congestion

Frequent nosebleeds and/or unusual discharge

Double vision

Numbness/weakness in the head and neck region

Blood in saliva or phlegm

Loosening teeth

Dentures no longer fit

Unexplained weight loss


By The Numbers:

54,540 new diagnoses of oral cavity and pharynx cancers in the US estimated for 2023.

1% average annual rate of increase in new oral cavity and pharynx cancer cases over 2010–2019.

More than 2x head and neck cancers are more than twice as common among men as they are among women.

4% Percent of all cancers in the US that are head and neck cancers.

Did You Know?

Head and neck cancers are divided into five main types:

Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers occur in and around the voice box.

Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers occur behind the nose.

Nasopharyngeal cancers occur at the upper part of the throat behind the nose.

Oral and oropharyngeal cancers occur in the mouth, tongue, and the area from tonsils to voice box.

Salivary gland cancers occur in the mouth glands that produce saliva.

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Robert Boissoneault Oncology Institute