Head & Neck Cancer Diagnosis

Early cancers of the head and neck may be found by a number of symptoms, including:

  • Sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
  • Lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat
  • Unusual bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth
  • Sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • Change in the voice

While these symptoms may often be caused by other less serious problems, it is important to see a doctor about any symptoms like these.

Dentists screen for head and neck cancers by observation of abnormal cells in the mouth and physicians by physical examination of the head and neck area. Quite often physicians first detect the cancer as lymph node metastases. In these cases anatomic imaging and biopsies are usually performed to search for the primary tumor. PET/CT imaging can help physicians locate some primary lesions not identified by other methods, and can help determine if and how far the cancer has spread.

The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.