In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for oral cancer may include one or more of the following:
- Biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope; to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.
- Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) - a noninvasive procedure that takes cross-sectional images of the brain or other internal organs; to detect any abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary X-ray.
- Ultrasonography - a diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a noninvasive procedure that produces two-dimensional view of an internal organ or structure, especially the brain and spinal cord. If additional imaging is needed, your doctor may order a PET scan, which can determine where your cancer started.
- Barium swallow - because cancer of the esophagus may occur with oral cancer, your doctor may order this test, often called an upper GI series, to look for cancer of the esophagus. You will drink a chalky solution while X-rays are taken
Once a diagnosis is made, the cancer will be staged (to determine the extent of the disease) before a treatment plan is established.