Head and neck cancers

A total of 342 people were diagnosed with head and neck cancers in Northern Ireland in 2017. Head and neck cancer is a general term used to cover many different types of cancers. 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 earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.

Signs and symptoms 

Common symptoms include:  

  • an ulcer in the mouth that doesn’t heal within 3 weeks;
  • red or white patches in the mouth that don’t go away within a few weeks;
  • difficulty swallowing or pain when chewing or swallowing;
  • changes to your voice for more than 3 weeks (for example, hoarseness);
  • a persistent or painful sore throat;
  • a persistent earache on one side for more than four weeks;
  • an unexplained swelling or lump in the face, mouth or neck.

Less common symptoms include:

  • a loose tooth for more than 3 weeks;
  • a blocked nose or nosebleeds;
  • pain or numbness in the face or upper jaw.

Although these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer, it’s important to have them checked out by your GP or dentist, particularly if they continue.

Head and neck cancers: Alexander's story


Below is a list of links to websites that can provide more information on head and neck cancers:

This is not an exhaustive list and other sources of support in Northern Ireland can also be accessed via Northern Ireland Cancer Network.