Signs and Symptoms of Head and Neck Tumors

Mouth, Throat and Sinuses

The most common non-cutaneous malignancy of the head and neck is squamous cell carcinoma. Most cases (85-90%) are related to tobacco use. Alcohol may also work as a promoter.

Small tumors have an 80-95% cure rate using either surgery or radiation therapy. Larger tumors require more extensive treatment, but cure is still possible. Early diagnosis is important in achieving excellent cure rates.

Symptoms which are suggestive of tumor include:

  • Sores that do not heal after approximately two weeks.
  • Sores that wax and wane in size or intensity.
  • Ear pain.
  • Persistent cough or sore throat.
  • Recurrent bleeding from the nose.
  • Nasal obstruction on one side.
  • Decreased hearing in one ear.
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing.
  • Hoarseness or a change in voice.
  • A neck mass which is increasing in size or has been present for more than two weeks.

If these symptoms are present you should see your physician or contact us with questions.

Thyroid Tumors

Most tumors of the thyroid present as a growth in the lower midline of the neck. These may cause difficulty swallowing or hoarseness, but usually are found in routine examinations by physicians or by the patients themselves.

A history of exposure to radiation or a family history of thyroid cancer are known risk factors. Tumors of the thyroid are much more common in women.

Most tumors are benign. Even if a malignant tumor of the thyroid is found, survival is excellent in most cases.

Diagnosis of the tumor usually made by insertion of a small needle into the mass. This is normally done in the doctor's office. Treatment generally involves surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland.

Salivary Gland Tumors

Salivary glands produce saliva to aid in chewing and digestion. The largest salivary gland is the parotid. People have two parotid glands and they are found in front of and below the ears.

Most tumors of this gland are benign (80%), but need to be removed because they will continue to grow, causing cosmetic and functional problems. Malignant tumors will eventually prove lethal, if not treated. Surgical removal of the parotid gland is generally curative.

Salivary gland tumors can also be found in the submandibular glands underneath the jaw bone. Tumors in this area are more likely to be malignant (50%). Surgical resection, possibly with radiation, is most often the treatment of choice.