Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month: Let’s Talk Risk Factors, Nutrition, and Support

April 2, 2021
A smiling couple snuggles outdoors on a tree-lined path


As we usher in the month of April, we’d like to take time to recognize Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. About 4% of all cancers in the United States are head and neck cancers, and it’s estimated that 66,630 people will develop head and neck cancer this year, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s patient information website Cancer.net.

Head and neck cancers include cancers in the following areas:

  • Hypopharynx (hypopharyngeal cancer)
  • Larynx (laryngeal cancer)
  • Nasal cavity (including nasopharyngeal cancer)
  • Oral cavity (including lip cancer and tongue cancer)
  • Pharynx (pharyngeal cancer)
  • Salivary glands
  • Sinuses (paranasal sinus cancer)

Risk factors for head and neck cancers may vary based on the specific diagnosis. Risk factors found across all types include:

  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use (cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco, and cigars)
  • Being over age 45 

Less common risk factors include:

  • The human papillomavirus (HPV), which is related to cancers occurring in the tonsils and the base of the tongue in the oropharynx (HPV can also cause cervical cancer).
  • The Epstein-Barr Virus, which is linked to an increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer.


Eating Well With Head and Neck Cancer

A healthy diet is an important part of a head and neck cancer patient’s journey before, during, and after treatment. Eating healthy can help prevent weight loss, lack of appetite, and other side effects associated with head and neck cancer treatment. It can also help you feel better and respond better to your cancer treatment. Find helpful tips and resources about eating well with head and neck cancer during your cancer journey.

“By talking with a nutritionist, I learned that staying well hydrated, consuming a certain number of calories daily, and overall good nutrition was the key to successfully battling cancer, as well as the key to a more rapid recovery. Outside of maintaining a positive attitude, proper nutrition was key to my overall success.”

— Jason M., stage IV oral cancer patient


Head and Neck Cancer Resources & Support

If you are living with head and neck cancer or are a caregiver, the Cancer Support Community offers a variety of resources to help ease the burden of your journey.

  • Visit our ­­­Head & Neck Cancer webpage for information about the disease, including risk factors, testing, different treatment options to help you make informed decisions, and how to cope. On this page you can also find informative publications in our Frankly Speaking About Cancer Library and numerous videos featuring stories from patients, caregivers, and survivors.
  • Connect with our Cancer Support Helpline by phone or online via our live chat service. Our experienced Helpline staff are here to offer free navigation for cancer patients or their loved ones.
  • Create a private support website where you can document your journey and receive support from friends and family along the way.


Stay tuned this April for our blog recognizing Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month.