Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, assess your risk factors and symptoms if you have any. He/she will also examine your head and neck. If your doctor thinks you may have head and neck cancer, then he/she will want to obtain some of the following tests in order to confirm the diagnosis and properly stage your cancer:

  • Clinical history & Examination: a review of your medical history and a physical examination aids in reaching a diagnosis.
  • Biopsy: Diagnosis is confirmed with a biopsy. This is a procedure which involves removing a small sample of the tissue or fluid at the site of the lump, mass or swelling. This is then examined under a microscope to reach a diagnosis.
  • Endoscopy: Your doctor may request an endoscopy particularly to assess the sites that are not easily accessible such as the larynx and pharynx. Endoscopy is a procedure done using a thin flexible camera tube that is inserted through the nose or mouth. There are different types of endoscopes according to the site being assessed (e.g. laryngoscope).
  • Imaging: Once a diagnosis is confirmed, imaging such as a CT, MRI or PET scan is required to determine the extent of the tumor, assess any spread and determine staging of

Additional tests:

  • Blood tests: blood tests such as Full Blood Count (FBC) and Liver Function Tests (LFTs) may be requested to assess your general health.
  • HPV tests: HPV infection is considered a high-risk factor for the head and neck cancers.