Head and neck cancer is a way of describing any cancer that is found in the head or neck region, except in the eyes, brain, ears or oesophagus. The cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck; for example inside the mouth, nose and throat.
Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer in Europe. It is about half as common as lung cancer, but twice as common as cervical cancer. There were more than 150,000 new patients diagnosed in Europe in 2012, which is the equivalent to the Olympic stadium in London being filled with people almost twice over.
Despite its severity and increasing prevalence within society, there is little awareness of head and neck cancer and patient outcomes remain very poor: 60% of people with head and neck cancer present with locally advanced disease at diagnosis, and 60% of people diagnosed at an advanced stage die from the disease within five years. However, for those patients diagnosed in the early stages of the disease there is an 80–90% survival rate.