Early detection is key to successful treatment of head and neck cancer. Almost three-quarters of all head and neck cancers can be easily detected during an examination. Your healthcare provider will perform an examination and may order diagnostic tests.
These exams and tests might include:
- A physical exam to check the oral and nasal cavities, neck, throat and tongue. Your provider may also feel your neck, lips, gum and cheeks for lumps.
- Endoscopy: Your provider uses a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope to examine your voice box, throat, nasal cavity or other area where you are experiencing symptoms. This is done in the office and isn’t painful.
- Laboratory tests on blood, urine or other body samples.
- Head and neck X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs or PET scans to create pictures of the areas inside your head and neck. Your provider will determine which tests will best evaluate your symptoms.
- Biopsy: Your provider removes tissue for a pathologist to study under a microscope. This is the only sure way to diagnose cancer. This may be done in the office with a local anesthetic, usually with a needle. Or it may have to be done in an operating room while you’re under a general anesthetic.