Oral cancer screenings and symptoms

What Tests Help My Doctor Find Oral Cancer?

Your dentist checks for signs of oral cancer during your regular exams. Your doctor may do tests if you have these symptoms that may be caused by oral cancer:

  • Unusual sores in your mouth

  • Red or white patches

  • Unusual swelling in your gums or jaw

  • Areas that bleed

What  Risk Factors Will My Doctor Evaluate?

Your doctor will probably ask some questions about your health habits and medical history. You may discuss risk factors for oral cancer, such as:

  • Current tobacco and alcohol use

  • History of tobacco use

  • History of alcohol use

  • Personal history of cancer

In addition to asking you questions, your doctor also may do a physical exam. This involves looking at your head and neck and checking inside your mouth. The doctor also may view the back of your mouth and throat with a flexible, lighted tube called an endoscope.

Based on the results of these tests, your doctor will decide whether to do a biopsy to look for cancer.

“Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer.” American Cancer Society, 2013. www.cancer.org/Cancer/OralCavityandOropharyngealCancer/DetailedGuide/index Accessed 2013.

“Head and Neck Cancer: Questions and Answers.” National Cancer Institute, February 1, 2013. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Sites-Types/head-and-neck Accessed 2013.

“Oral Cancer.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-cancer Accessed 2013.

“Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment (PDQ): Patient Version.” National Cancer Institute, May 9, 2013. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/lip-and-oral-cavity/Patient Accessed 2013.

“What You Need To Know About Oral Cancer.” National Cancer Institute, December 23, 2009. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/oral Accessed 2013.

Go back to articles