Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms & Conditions | Tampa General Hospital


Head and Neck Cancer Information

Head and neck cancer is a blanket term that refers to numerous diseases affecting various areas of the body, including the mouth, throat, nose, sinuses, and the voice box. The majority of head and neck cancers are classified as squamous cell carcinomas, meaning that they develop in the flat, thin cells that line the mucus membranes. The occurrence of these cancers is closely tied to environmental factors, such as excessive exposure to UV rays and the inhalation of chemicals used in the workplace. They also occur more frequently in people who use tobacco products or drink alcohol heavily. Typically, early-stage head and neck cancer produces few symptoms, and many people only discover symptoms after their type of cancer has begun to spread. Some symptoms include:

  • Areas of white plaque on the inside of the cheek, tongue, gums, or anywhere else in the oral cavity
  • Sores or ulcers in the mouth that do not heal
  • An earache
  • Swelling of the neck (from swollen lymph nodes or a new mass)
  • Soreness of the tongue
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Unintended weight loss
  • A sore throat or hoarse voice that doesn’t go away

Head and neck cancer is typically diagnosed after the affected person visits a physician because symptoms exist or when a physician or dentist notices a symptom during a routine exam. A physical exam can help start the diagnostic process, but imaging tests like X-rays, MRI and CT scans, and endoscopic exams are used to confirm the presence of cancerous cells. Tampa General Hospital’s ENT oncology specialists provide patients who have head or neck cancer with several treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. We also offer speech pathology treatments and supportive care services as part of our team approach to cancer treatment. Our team of experienced oncologists specializes in head and neck cancers, so they can help determine what course of action may be most beneficial to each patient.

Tampa General Hospital has earned “high performing” designation for cancer care by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24, meaning we are ranked among the top 10% of U.S. hospitals.

For a physician referral, please call (813) 844-2200.