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Head and Neck Cancer: Symptoms

Healthcare provider talking to elderly woman in exam room

What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?

Many people with head and neck cancer have symptoms such as these:

  • Growth or sore in the mouth

  • Lump in the neck

  • Lump or sore inside the nose, on the lip, or in the mouth that won’t heal

  • Sore throat that does not go away

  • Feeling that something is stuck in the throat

  • Blocked sinuses or nasal congestion that won’t clear

  • Chronic sinus infections

  • Cough or hoarseness that does not go away

  • Coughing up blood or bleeding in the mouth

  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or breathing

  • Pain when swallowing

  • Pain in the ear, face, chin, neck, upper back, jaw, or upper teeth

  • Frequent headaches or pain around the nose, cheeks, or forehead

  • Frequent nosebleeds or ones that don’t stop

  • Weakness in the muscles of the face

  • Double vision

  • Numbness in the face

  • Ringing in the ears or hearing problems

  • Swelling of the eyes, under the chin, or around the jaw

  • Vomiting

  • Bad breath even with proper oral hygiene

  • Red or white patches in the mouth

  • Loose teeth or dentures

  • Unexplained weight loss 

When to see your healthcare provider

Many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems. But it is important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have cancer. Your healthcare provider may send you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist (otolaryngologist) or to a head and neck surgeon to be checked.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gersten, Todd, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2018
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