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Neck Cancers

Some patients with head and neck cancer first show up to a doctor’s office because they feel a “swollen gland” or lump in the neck. It is important to note that a lump in the neck is not necessarily cancer. Lymph nodes can be enlarged for many reasons, including inflammation and infection. Also, there are a number of benign (non-cancerous) tumors that can be discovered in the neck (e.g., schwannomas, neurofibromas, paragangliomas and others). Actually, most lumps in the neck are not cancer. However, if a lump doesn’t go away after about two weeks, particularly if your doctor has tried some type of treatment, it’s worth getting it checked out by a specialist. The term “neck cancer” is not a very specific term. In most cases it refers to cancer cells that have spread into lymph nodes within the neck from a primary tumor site. These are called metastatic lymph nodes. Just about any cancer in the head and neck region can spread into lymph nodes in the neck.

More rarely, cancers from another part of your body can also spread to the neck. When cancers from parts of the body spread to the neck, the neck mass is usually in the lower part of the neck just above the collarbones.

Cancers such as lymphomas and sarcomas can start in the neck, and they are treated somewhat differently.

In the U.S., 850 to 900 children and adolescents younger than 20 years of age are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcomas each year, of which approximately 350 are rhabdomyosarcomas.1 Gurney JG, Young JL, Roffers SD, Smith MA, Bunin GR. SEER pediatric monograph – soft tissue sarcomas. National Cancer Institute. Page 111. http://seer.cancer.gov/publications/childhood/softtissue.pdf.

Thyroid cancers start in the thyroid gland and are considered separately.

http://vimeo.com/66246242

 

Navigating neck cancers

To learn more about a particular type of neck cancer, choose an article below.

Basics of Neck Cancer

An overview of the basics of neck cancer.

Metastatic Lymph Nodes

A patient is diagnosed with metastatic lymph nodes when cancer spreads from a primary tumor somewhere else in the body to the lymph nodes of the neck. Explore this page to learn more about metastatic lymph nodes in the neck.

Advanced Thyroid Cancer

Advanced thyroid cancer begins in the thyroid, which is a gland located in the central neck. Explore this page to learn more about advanced thyroid cancer.

References

1 Gurney JG, Young JL, Roffers SD, Smith MA, Bunin GR. SEER pediatric monograph – soft tissue sarcomas. National Cancer Institute. Page 111. http://seer.cancer.gov/publications/childhood/softtissue.pdf.

2 Fletcher CDM, Rydholm A, Singer S, Sundaram M, Coindre JM. Soft Tissue Tumours. In: Barnes EL, Eveson JW, Reichart P, Sidransky D, editors. World Health Organization classification of tumours: pathology & genetics WHO Classification. Lyon: IARCPress; 2005.

3 Zhang MQ, El-Mofty SK, Dávila RM. Detection of human papillomavirus-related squamous cell carcinoma cytologically and by in situ hybridization in fine-needle aspiration biopsies of cervical metastasis: a tool for identifying the site of an occult head and neck primary. Cancer. 2008;114(2):118-23.

4 Cunningham MJ, Myers EN, Bluestone CD. Malignant tumors of the head and neck in children – a 20 year review. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 1987;(13)3:279-292.

5 Edge SB, et al. The AJCC Cancer Staging Manual – Seventh Edition. American Joint Committee on Cancer 2010. Page 611.

6 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Head and Neck Cancers V.2.2013. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2013. All rights reserved. Accessed June 20, 2013. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org. NATIONAL COMPREHENSIVE CANCER NETWORK®, NCCN®, NCCN GUIDELINES®, and all other NCCN Content are trademarks owned by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc.

7 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Soft Tissue Sarcoma V.1.2013. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2013. All rights reserved. Accessed July 17, 2013. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org. NATIONAL COMPREHENSIVE CANCER NETWORK®, NCCN®, NCCN GUIDELINES®, and all other NCCN Content are trademarks owned by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc.

8 Ries LAG, Young JL, Keel GE, Eisner MP, Lin YD, Horner M-J (editors). SEER Survival Monograph: Cancer Survival Among Adults: U.S. SEER Program, 1988-2001, Patient and Tumor Characteristics. National Cancer Institute, SEER Program, NIH Pub. No. 07-6215, Bethesda, MD, 2007.