Signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer

There are many possible symptoms of head and neck cancer. However, displaying these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have cancer. Only a qualified medical practitioner can make this diagnosis.

Learn more about the symptoms of these head and neck cancers:


Mouth (oral) cancer

  • mouth pain or pain when swallowing
  • a persistent sore or swelling in the mouth
  • unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • red or white patches on the gums, tongue or mouth
  • changes in speech or difficulty pronouncing words
  • difficulty chewing or swallowing food, difficulty moving the tongue or limited chewing
  • weight loss
  • a lump in the neck
  • loose teeth, or dentures that no longer fit
  • earache, or ringing in the ears

Pharyngeal cancer

  • throat pain or difficulty swallowing
  • a persistent sore throat or cough
  • coughing up bloody phlegm
  • bad breath
  • weight loss
  • voice changes or hoarseness
  • dull pain around the breastbone
  • a lump in the neck
  • pain in the ear or frequent ear infections
  • feeling that your air supply is blocked
  • numbness of the face
  • nasal congestion
  • hearing loss
  • headaches

Laryngeal cancer

  • swelling or a lump in the neck or throat
  • a persistent sore throat
  • a persistent change in the sound of your voice, including hoarseness
  • difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing
  • constant coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • weight loss

Salivary gland cancer

  • swelling or a lump near the ear, jaw, lip, or inside the mouth
  • different appearance on each side of the face or neck
  • difficulty swallowing or opening mouth widely
  • drooping, numbness or muscle weakness on one side of the face (palsy)

Nasal or paranasal sinus cancer

  • decreased sense of smell
  • a persistent blocked nose, particularly in one nostril
  • frequent nosebleeds
  • excess mucus in the throat or back of the nose
  • frequent headaches or sinus pressure
  • difficulty swallowing
  • loose or painful upper teeth
  • a lump on/in the face, nose or mouth
  • numbness of the face, upper lip, or within the mouth or upper teeth
  • pressure or pain in the ears
  • a bulging or watery eye
  • double vision
  • complete or partial loss of eyesight

This information was last reviewed in May 2017
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