Oral Cavity or Oropharyngeal Cancer Screening Tests

When a person goes for a routine check-up, the dentist may find some signs which can be of oral cancer or pre-cancer but a patient might have some symptoms which lead to further tests for the cancel verification.

Tests for cancer

After going through all the symptoms and medical problems, the doctor will look for possible mouth or throat cancer signs. These can include symptoms like-

a.      Bumps or other changing areas on your head, face, or neck

b.      Problems with the nerves of the face and mouth

If any doctor doubts that you might have cancer, they will suggest you go to a specialist. They are known as ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors who will do a complete head and neck examination and can also recommend some other tests.

While doing the test, the specialists will pay specific attention to abnormal areas and Lymph nodes will be felt for swelling. The doctors also need to examine the oropharynx which is deep inside the neck so they numb the back first to do further examination.

Indirect pharyngoscopy and Laryngoscopy-

Small mirrors on long, thin handles are used to look at your throat, the base of your tongue, and the part of the larynx (voice box)

Direct (flexible) pharyngoscopy and Laryngoscopy-

A flexible fiber-optic scope known as an endoscope is put either in your nose or in the mouth which were not visible through mirrors. It helps in getting a clear look at areas of the change that were seen with the mirrors and also the part behind the nose (nasopharynx) and larynx (voice box).


The risk factors are increased if the person consumes tobacco or alcohol. There are up to 10% chances that the person might have more than one cancer at a time. So, to make sure that there are no more cancers in the esophagus or the lungs, panendoscopy is needed to be done. It also helps in understanding whether cancer started or if the lymph nodes in the bottom part of the neck seem abnormal.

To examine the oral cavity, oropharynx, larynx, esophagus (tubes leading to the stomach), trachea (windpipe), and bronchi (breathing passage) in the lungs. The doctor uses different types of endoscopes which can be passed through the mouth or nose.

Oral Cancer Screening will use scopes to examine these sites for tumors, determine their size, and determine how far they have migrated to surrounding areas. A small piece of tissue from any tumors or other abnormal places may be removed and examined under a microscope (biopsied) to discover if cancer is present. Biopsies can be useful in a variety of situations.

The main motive of these tests is to detect cancer at early stages so that it is easy to remove or cure. Although, no study proves that oral cancer can be treated with early screening but some dentists do recommend going for screening.

If doctors find anything suspicious, they may ask you to take different tests which include-

a.      Biopsy

b.      Exfoliative cytology

c.      Incisional Biopsy

d.      Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) biopsy

e.      Lab tests of Biopsy Samples

f.       HPV (p16) testing

g.      Chest X-ray

The factors that can increase the risk of oral cancers are

a.      use of tobacco of any kind including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff

b.      heavy alcohol use

c.      previous oral cancer diagnosis

d.      history of significance and exposure which increases the risk of lip cancer

the cases are rapidly increasing of oral cancer but doctors are not sure about the reason. According to them, one of the significant reasons for the same is sexually transmitted infection Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

These oral examinations have some limitations like

a.      additional tests

b.      all mouth cancer cannot be deducted

c.      it has no proof of saving lives

It is always recommended to get your mouth checked at regular intervals so that if there is any symptom, it can be easily detected and treated. If you have any queries, you can always make an appointment at Medford Dentist and can get the consultancy.

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