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Cancer can occur in any of the tissues or organs in the head and neck. There are over 30 different places that cancer can develop in the head and neck area.
We also have a video with more detail about the treatment of oral cancer|.
Head and neck cancers include cancers of the mouth (oral cancers) and the throat, as well as rarer cancers of the nose, sinuses, salivary glands and middle ear.
The mouth is the most common place for head and neck cancer to develop.
Mouth cancer can develop on the lip, the tongue, the floor of the mouth (under the tongue), the inside of the cheek, the roof of the mouth (the hard palate), the area behind the wisdom teeth or the gum.
Most lip cancers occur on the bottom lip.
The most common places for cancer to develop inside the mouth are the side of the tongue and the floor of the mouth.
Diagram of the oral cavity
View a large version of the diagram of the oral cavity|
Doctors use different names to describe different areas of the throat and the cancers that can develop there.
The nasopharynx is the highest part of the throat behind the nose. Cancers that occur here are called nasopharyngeal cancers|.
The oropharynx is the part of the throat directly behind the mouth. It includes the soft part of the roof of the mouth (the soft palate), the base of the tongue (the part you can’t see), the tonsils and the back and side walls of the throat.
The most common places in the oropharynx for cancer to develop are the tonsils and the base of the tongue. We have more information about cancer of the oropharynx|.
This is the second most common place for head and neck cancer to develop. We have more information about cancer of the voice box|.
Cancer can also develop in the thyroid gland. It is treated differently from other types of head and neck cancer. We have more information about thyroid cancer|.
Diagram showing a cross-section of the head
View large version of the diagram showing a cross-section of the head|
Content last reviewed: 1 November 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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