Does head and neck cancer spread?

Yes. Usually, the typical squamous cell head and neck cancer is not the most aggressive cancer, but it's also not the type that sits for a long time without growing much. It spreads through the lymphatic system from the primary site into the lymph nodes of the neck area first.

Skin cancers typically spread less quickly than the other type of head and neck cancers, though melanoma can be aggressive. Basal cell cancers are usually not very aggressive, while the squamous cell cutaneous cancers are somewhere in the middle.

Once head and neck cancer spreads to the regional areas, it's not common for them to metastasize to other parts of the body, but they certainly can. Typically the first place would be to the lungs. For example, we’ll see patients with a cancer in the back of the throat, but then they'll also have another cancer in the lung. Usually it's just the primary site and the regional areas, but they do sometimes present with some distant metastasis (spread).

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