Diagnosis

Getting to a diagnosis begins with a history and physical examination. If the symptoms that make you or your doctor suspect cancer haven’t been present for very long, or if the history and physical examination make the doctor less suspicious that your lesion is cancer, your doctor might try some medications and rehabilitation before jumping to a diagnosis of cancer.

At some point, if your doctor is not certain of a diagnosis, and if symptoms aren’t getting better (and if symptoms are getting worse), your doctor should raise the possibility of starting a cancer work-up. Like with most cancers in the head and neck, this will include a combination of biopsy and imaging tests, the term that doctors use to refer to X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, etc.

If you came to a specialist after having a lesion removed and found it was cancer only after having the lesion removed, your doctor might skip some of the tests and jump to follow-up or additional treatment. Be sure to bring all the reports and images from any prior treatment with you to your appointment with your head and neck cancer specialist.