- What is head and neck cancer?  
- How does cancer arise?
- What causes head and neck cancer?  
- Can cancer of the head and neck be cured?  
- Symptoms of head and neck cancer  
- Referral to a specialist
- Diagnosis of head and neck cancer  
- Stage and grade of cancer  
- Treatment for head and neck cancer  
- Follow-up after treatment  
- Clinical trials

 

What causes head and neck cancer?

We know that cancers are not infectious – cancer of the head or neck cannot be caught from someone like a cold or cough. However, we do not know very much about what does cause cancer.

There are some things, however, that we know do to increase the chance of developing cancer of the head and neck, including:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Chewing tobacco, betel, pan, or gutkha
  • Heavy consumption of alcohol
  • A poor diet.

In some cancers, there appears to be a link with specific causative factors. For example, cancer of the nasopharynx has been linked to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a very common virus that also causes glandular fever. EBV does not cause cancer on its own, and it is not known why it is associated with cancer in some people and only with an infection in others.

We also know that cancer of the head and neck is more common in men than in women and is more common in people over 55 years old than in younger people.