Head & Neck Cancer

This year nearly 70,000 new cases of head and neck cancer will be diagnosed. That includes cancers of the lips, mouth, throat, and voice box. Eighty-five percent of these can be directly linked to tobacco use. Drinking alcohol and using tobacco at the same time more than doubles the risk of developing head and neck cancer. Treatment of head and neck cancer can leave the patient with facial disfigurement and problems talking, swallowing, and breathing.

The use of tobacco products is the #1 cause of head and neck cancer. More than 90% of head and neck cancers can be detected by a simple physical exam, so it is important to see your doctor if you are at risk (i.e. heavy smoker) or if you are experiencing symptoms of head and neck cancer.

IMRISSome symptoms to look for may include:

  • Ulcers that won’t heal
  • Throat pain not relieved in two to four weeks
  • Difficulty swallowing, especially associated with weight loss
  • Persistent ear pain
  • Change in your voice or persistent hoarseness
  • Change in the way your dentures fit
  • Unexplained facial pain
  • Lumps or masses in the neck


UVa has a nationally and internationally recognized program for the diagnosis and treatment of malignant and benign head and neck lesions in adults and children.


Program highlights include:

  • Surgical treatment for benign and malignant tumors, congenital cysts and fistulae of the head and neck, lips, oral cavity, tongue, tonsils, throat, larynx and thyroid, salivary glands and lymph nodes;
  • Continuous, seamless treatment through coordination with the Cancer Center at UVa;
  • Extensive support programs for patients, including preoperative education and counseling and postoperative speech, voice and swallowing treatments;
  • Bronchoesophagology and videoscopic capabilities and sophisticated voice-testing equipment;
  • Unique expertise in upper nasal cavity tumors;
  • Coordination with Neurosurgery in skull base surgery;
  • Excellent reconstructive surgery program, and
  • Innovative medical protocol therapies.


Additional Patient Information:

  • Yul Brynner Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week (includes information on free head & neck cancer screenings)
  • Tobacco Facts