Head and neck cancer is a reasonably uncommon type of cancer, with around 12,400 new cases diagnosed in the UK every year, reports the NHS.

However, there are more than 30 different areas within the head and neck where the cancer can appear.

This includes the mouth and lips, voice box, throat, salivary glands, nose and sinuses and the area at the back of the nose and mouth.

Brain tumours don’t tend to be classified as head and neck cancer.

Some of the main types of head and neck cancers and their symptoms

Mouth cancer

Mouth cancer is the most common type of head and neck cancer and it can affect a number of areas in and around the mouth, according to the NHS.

These include:

  • lips
  • tongue
  • inside of the cheeks
  • floor or roof of the mouth
  • gums

Some symptoms of mouth cancer can include mouth ulcers and unexplained persistent lumps in the mouth that can both be painful.

Laryngeal cancer

Laryngeal cancer develops in the tissue of the voice box, also known as the larynx. The symptoms of laryngeal cancer can include:

  • a change in the voice, such as persistent hoarseness
  • difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • noisy breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • a persistent cough
  • a lump or swelling in your neck

Throat cancers

The throat, also known as the pharynx includes many separate parts that can be affected by cancer.

The main areas that can be affected include:

  • oropharynx – the part of the throat at the back of the mouth
  • hypopharynx – the part of the throat connecting the oropharynx to the gullet and windpipe
  • nasopharynx – the part of the throat that connects the back of the nose to the back of the mouth

The most common symptoms of cancer in the oropharynx or hypopharynx can be a lump in the neck, a persistent sore throat and trouble when swallowing.

Salivary gland cancer

Salivary gland cancer most commonly affects the parotid glands which are located between your cheeks and your ears.

The main symptom of salivary gland cancer is a lump or swelling on or near your jaw, or in your mouth or neck. But most of these lumps are non-cancerous.

Other symptoms can include numbness and drooping in part of your face.

Nasal and sinus cancer

The symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer are similar to the common cold or sinusitis, and include:

  • a persistent blocked nose, which usually only affects one side
  • nosebleeds
  • a decreased sense of smell
  • mucus running from the nose or down the throat

Nasopharyngeal cancer

Nasopharyngeal cancer is one of the rarest types of head and neck cancer in the UK. It affects the part of the throat that connects the back of the nose to the back of the mouth.

Symptoms can include:

  • a lump in the neck, due to the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes (small glands that are part of the immune system) in the neck
  • a blocked or stuffy nose
  • nosebleeds
  • hearing loss (usually only in one ear)

Although having some of these symptoms may not mean you have cancer, it’s important to note that if you have any concerns you should see a GP.

You can also visit the NHS and Cancer Research UK website for more information and advice about head and neck cancer.