Types of cancer

Hypopharyngeal Cancer is the name given to cancer which forms in the hypopharynx – the hypopharynx is where the larynx (throat) and the oesophagus (gullet) meet.

This is one of the rarer forms of throat cancer and is quite hard to diagnose. As with the majority of head and neck cancers the risks are higher for heavy smokers and drinkers.

SYMPTOMS OF HYPOPHARYNGEAL CANCER

There are quite a few things that can be symptomatic of Hypopharyngeal Cancer – please remember that these can also be symptoms for a whole range of diseases too. The best thing you can do if you are worried is go to your doctor and explain why you are worried.

The chances are low that you have cancer but it is always better to get checked as soon as possible. Most cancer treatment works better with early detection, so do not worry but DO get your doctor to check you over if you have any of these symptoms for more than three weeks.

  • swollen lymph nodes (usually the first sign patients notice)
  • persistent sore throat
  • pain that radiates from the throat to ears
  • difficulty swallowing
  • hoarseness

As you can see the symptoms can appear to be fairly common place and in most cases it will not be cancer. However, if you do have these symptoms for a prolonged period of time please make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can. You can find your nearest NHS GP here. If you cannot find a GP near you there will be walk in clinics at hospitals which you can attend too.

Laryngeal cancer or larynx cancer affects the larynx, also known as the voice box. The cancers in this area will generally be squamous cell carcinoma – that means the cancer will develop in the soft skin which covers this part of the body.

Laryngeal cancer can affect the larynx in three distinct areas: the glottis, the supraglottis, subglottis – which are different areas of the larynx. As with Oropharyngeal cancer, there are several risk factors which increase your chances of developing cancer of larynx. This form of cancer is most prevalent in heavy smokers.

Sometimes people will refer laryngeal cancer as Vocal Cord Cancer – this is a more simplified name for cancer of the glottis. The most common form of cancer of larynx is Cancer of the Glottis, or vocal cord cancer. Cancer of the supraglottis (above the glottis) and subglottis (below the glottis) are also possible but they are very rare.

SYMPTOMS OF LARYNGEAL CANCER

There are quite a few things that can be symptomatic of Laryngeal Cancer – please remember that these can also be symptoms for a lot of harmless illnesses too. The best thing you can do if you are worried is go to your doctor and explain why you are worried.

The chances are low that you will have cancer but it is always better to get checked as soon as possible.  All cancer treatment works better with early detection, so do not worry but DO get your doctor to check you over if you have any of these symptoms for more than three weeks:

Cancer of the glottis (Vocal Cord Cancer)

  • hoarseness – if you experience a hoarse voice with no obvious reason for a prolonged period of time you should get your GP to check you over
  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • pain in the throat

Cancer of the Supraglottis and Subglottis

  • hoarseness/voice changes
  • ear pain – occurs when the cancer damages nerves leading to the ear
  • throat pain
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty breathing

As you can see the symptoms can appear to be fairly common place and in most cases it will not be cancer. However, if you do have these symptoms for a prolonged period of time please make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can. You can find your nearest NHS GP here.  If you cannot find a GP near you there will be walk in clinics at hospitals which you can attend too.

Nasopharyngeal cancer is the term given to cancers which form in the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is a small box like chamber which lies just behind the nose and is part of the pharynx (the throat).  

There a few different kinds of cancer which can form in this part of the head : a naropharngyeal carcinoma – which forms in the soft skin tissue which coats this part of the throat, Lymphomas which form in the lymph glands which are part of the immune system and adenoid cystic carcinoma which can develop in the minor salivary glands in the nasal cavity.    

SYMPTOMS OF NAROPHARYNGEAL CANCER

There are a few warning signs that you should look out for – as with all cancer the symptoms can be signs of many illnesses which are not as serious as cancer. You should go see your GP if any of the symptoms persist for longer than 3 weeks. The chances of you having cancer is low but it is far better to get checked over if you are worried.

  • a lump in your neck which does not go away. Your neck will often get lumps and bumps but if you have a lump which does not go away then call your GP and make an appointment

  • hearing loss – often only in one ear

  • hoarse voice

  • facial numbness in the lower part of the face

  • difficulty swallowing

  • persistent headaches

  • fluid in the ear

  • tinnitus ( a constant ringing in the ears)

  • bloody discharge from the nose

  • stuffed up nose – often on one side

As you can see the symptoms can be indicative of many illnesses not necessarily cancer but if you have these symptoms and they do not clear up in three weeks then make an appointment to see your GP. More than likely if will not be cancer but get checked out if you are worried – early detection generally improves outcomes for all forms of cancer.

The oesophagus (esophagus in US English)  is what connects the stomach to the throat. Generally there are two forms of cancer which can occur in oesophahus – squamous cell carcinoma (cancerous cells develop in the soft skin covering of the oesophagus) and adenocarcinoma which is more common in people who suffer from acid reflux and Barret’s Oesophagus, which is related to longstanding acid reflux problems.

This is one of the most common forms of cancer. Generally speaking – squamous cell carcinoma affects the “top” of the oesophagus where it meets the throat and adenocarcinoma affects the “bottom” of the oesophageal tract where it joins the stomach. The majority of oesophageal cancer will be squamous cell carcinoma which accounts for 95% of cases.

SYMPTOMS OF OESOPHAGEAL CANCER

There are several warning signs to look out for which can suggest the cancer of the oesophagus has developed. As with all cancers the symptoms can be fairly nondescript and easily ignored but if they persist for three weeks then we urge you to get to your GP and get checked.

The chances are that you do not have cancer, as the risks are low but it is far better to get checked early than to ignore the problem. Cancer outcomes improve the earlier doctors can catch and start treating the problem. If you have any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time then please call your GP and make an appointment:

  • pain/difficulty when swallowing

  • heartburn or indigestion which does not go away

  • being sick

  • weight loss

  • a persistent cough

  • pain or discomfort behind the breastbone (in the middle of the rib cage)

  • hoarseness

The symptoms can all be indicators of many diseases and the chances are that you do not have cancer. However if any, or all of these symptoms appear and last for longer than three weeks then please call your GP. You can find your nearest GP here, if you cannot find a GP many hospitals will have walk-in clinics that you can attend too.

This is a collective term given to cancers which affect any part of the oral cavity – this can include the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the gums, the teeth, the front 2/3’s of the tongue, the area beneath the tongue and also the bony part of the roof of the mouth.

Many people will refer to this kind of cancer a mouth cancer. We have already looked at some of the cancer types which can be classed as Oral Cavity Cancer in our section Oropharyngeal Cancer so we will focus on the cancers which can affect the lips, cheeks, gums and teeth.

The majority of Oral Cavity Cancer will be squamous cell carcinoma which is when cancer cells develop in the soft skin that lines the mouth and throat. This kind of cancer accounts for 90% of oral cavity cancer.

SYMPTOMS OF ORAL CAVITY CANCER

There are a few symptoms and warning signs that can indicate oral cavity cancer. Please remember that cancer is quite rare and more often than not the symptoms will be harmless. However, if you have symptoms which persist for a prolonged period of time – more than 3 weeks – then go to your doctor and ask them to investigate.

There are plenty of fairly harmless illnesses which have the same symptoms but it is far better to get checked than to hope it goes away. Cancer always has a better outcome when it is caught early – so if any of the symptoms below persist for three weeks then call your GP and make an appointment:

  • sore throat/hoarse voice

  • lump in the neck

  • red/white patches in the mouth

  • difficulty swallowing

  • unusual weight loss

  • unexplained bleeding in the mouth

  • loose teeth

  • bad breath

  • ulcers in the mouth which do not heal

If you have any of the symptoms above which persist for longer than three weeks head to your GP and get yourself checked out. You can find your nearest GP here.

Oropharyngeal cancer is the name given to cancers which affect the part of the throat called the Oropharynx. This part of the body includes the tonsils, the base of the tongue, the soft palate (the roof of the mouth)  and the pharynx which is the top of the throat.  

The type of cancer which usually affects this part of the body is called Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma means the cancer cells form in the soft skin which coats the oropharynx. Your skin doesn’t just cover your body but also covers parts which you might not expect it to: the throat, the vagina, the anus for example. OSCC means that the cancer has developed in the soft skin lining of the oropharynx, or the throat. This type of cancer accounts for about 90% of oropharyngeal cancer.

SYMPTOMS OF OROPHARYNGEAL CANCER 

There are quite a few things that can be symptomatic of Oropharyngeal Cancer – please remember that these can also be symptoms for a whole range of illnesses not just cancer. The best thing you can do if you are worried is go to your doctor and get checked over.

The chances are very low that you have cancer but it is always better to get checked as soon as possible. All cancer treatment works better with early detection, so please do not worry but DO get your doctor to check you over if you have any of these symptoms for more than three weeks:

  • sore throat/hoarse voice

  • lump in the neck

  • red/white patches in the throat

  • difficulty swallowing

  • unusual weight loss

  • stiff/difficult to move jaw

  • unexplained bleeding in the mouth

  • loose teeth

  • bad breath

  • ulcers in the mouth which do not heal

As you can see the symptoms can appear to be fairly common place and in most cases it will not be cancer. However, if you do have these symptoms for a prolonged period of time please make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can.

You can find your nearest NHS GP here. If you cannot find a GP near you there will be walk in clinics at hospitals which you can attend too.

There are several areas of the Paranasal Sinuses where malignant tumours can form. The paranasal sinuses are hollow areas around the nose which produce mucus which prevents the nose from drying out when breathing.

There are several sinuses: the frontal sinuses (lower forehead), the maxillary sinuses (cheekbones either side of the nose), ethmoid sinuses (upper nose/between the eyes) and sphenoid sinuses (behind the nose).

The most common cancer is the sinuses are squamous cell carcinoma – the cancer affects the soft lining of these areas much like in oropharyngeal cancer. There have also been cases of melanoma (the cancer starts in the meloncytes which give skin it’s colour, sarcoma (the cancer starts in muscle or connective tissue), an inverting papilloma (tumours form which are often benign but which can become malignant) and midline granulomas (affecting tissue in the middle of the face). 

SYMPTOMS OF PARANASAL SINUS CANCER

There are a few symptoms that you can indicate you have developed Paranasal Sinus Cancer. The symptoms are often fairly innocuous but you should go and see your doctor if they persist for a prolonged period of time – more than 3 weeks. The chances of you having cancer will be low but you it is far better to get checked over than to remain anxious and worried:

  • blocked sinuses which do not clear

  • pain behind the nose or teeth

  • eyes become swollen

  • facial numbness

  • persistent nosebleeds

  • headaches

  • voice changes

  • double vision

The chances of developing paranasal cancer are very low and your symptoms are likely to be indicative of something less serious – however, if they persist and you are worried, make an appointment with your GP and get your doctor to examine you.

Early detection always improves outcomes for all cancer and this is true of paranasal sinus cancer. Do not ignore symptoms if they persist for a prolonged period of time but have your GP check you over. You can locate your nearest GP here.

This is a very rare form of cancer and accounts for only 2% of head and neck cancers. The salivary glands are divided into two groups: the major glands and the minor glands. There are three major glands: the parotid, submandibular and the sublingual glands. The majority of cancers form in the major glands in particular the parotid gland. 

SYMPTOMS OF SALIVARY GLAND CANCER

There are quite a few things that can be symptomatic of Salivary Gland Cancer – please remember that these can also be symptoms for a whole range of illnesses not just cancer. The best thing you can do if you are worried is go to your doctor and get checked over.

The chances are very low that you have cancer but it is always better to get checked as soon as possible. Most cancer treatment works better with early detection, so please do not worry but DO get your doctor to check you over if you have any of these symptoms for more than three weeks:

  • sore throat/hoarse voice

  • lump in the neck

  • red/white patches in the throat

  • difficulty swallowing

  • unusual weight loss

  • stiff/difficult to move jaw

  • unexplained bleeding in the mouth

  • loose teeth

  • bad breath

  • ulcers in the mouth which do not heal

As you can see the symptoms can appear to be fairly common place and in most cases it will not be cancer. However, if you do have these symptoms for a prolonged period of time please make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can.

You can find your nearest NHS GP here. If you cannot find a GP near you there will be walk in clinics at hospitals which you can attend too.

The thyroid lives in the front part of the neck, just beneath the “Adam’s Apple” and is responsible for how the body uses energy, creates proteins and controls the body’s sensitivity to other hormones.

The thyroid can be affected by malignant (cancerous) tumours. There are 4 areas which can become affected by cancer: papillary (the most common type of thyroid cancer accounting for about 85% of cases), follicular (about 15% of cases, mainly affecting females, meduallary (about 3% of cases, generally a genetic disposition is the cause), and anaplastic thyroid cancer .

Thyroid cancer is more common among females over 40. Thyroid cancer risk factors include high iodine intake, exposure to radiation. Thyroid cancers can be caused by radiation therapy for head and neck cancers.

SYMPTOMS OF THYROID CANCER

Thyroid Cancer often does not present obvious symptoms until the cancer has progressed. There are, however, a few things to look out for which can be warning signs for thyroid cancer.

As with all head and neck cancers the symptoms can be very innocuous but if you are worried and the symptoms persist longer than 3 weeks we urge you to head to your GP and get checked over. Cancer will always have a better outcome the earlier that it is caught, so do not panic but DO get checked over.

Things to look out for are:

  • unexplained hoarseness (lasting longer than 3 weeks)

  • difficulty swallowing

  • difficulty breathing

  • pain in your neck

  • pain in your throat (under or near the “Adam’s Apple – woman have an “Adams’ Apple too it is just smaller and harder to see)

The chances of you having cancer are low but should you have persistent problems with any of the symptoms then make an appointment with your GP. You can find your nearest GP here and they will be able to examine you and make a diagnosis. Please do not get worried but please do get checked out by a doctor.

What is throat cancer?

In medical terms, there is no such thing as ‘throat cancer’. Rather there are several different types of cancer which can affect the throat, mouth, neck and chest.

Read More »

Risk factors

Risk factors Smoking/Tobacco Whether smoked or chewed, tobacco contains harmful chemicals which put the user at a heightened risk of

Read More »

Mental health

When someone is diagnosed with cancer it is very stressful and difficult time for everyone: patients, family members, friends.

Read More »

Need Support?

There is lots of help available though and we have compiled a list of useful resources which will guide you through the support that is available to patients and their families.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top