If your doctor/dentist suspects signs and symptoms indicating a cancer in your mouth, he will do a physical exam to analyze oral cavity. During the examination, he look for red or white patches, lumps, swelling, sores or other changes in your neck, head, face and mouth which may explain the presence of a tumor.
However, to confirm the diagnosis and to determine if the cancer has spread, more explicit tests such as radiography, ultrasound, CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and bone scan will be performed. In addition, your doctor can recommend a biopsy to establish a decisive diagnose.
Imaging techniques – imaging techniques such as ultrasound, CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and bone scan allow your physician to have a clear information on the tumor – tissue affected, location and size of the tumor and the presence of metastases, if there is any. Cancer of the oral cavity can spread into the sinuses, skull and lungs. to confirm whether the tumor has reached these organs, your doctor may recommend X-rays and examinations of the head and neck. However, to accurately confirm the diagnosis, a biopsy should be performed.
Biopsy – to establish with certainty the diagnosis of the cancer, a pathologist will take tissue sample from your mouth, specifically from the area where the tumor is suspected, in order to perform a microscopic examination. If cancer cells are found, your doctor will determine how fast they multiply to recommend the most appropriate and effective treatment.
The biopsy also allows your doctor to determine the degree of malignancy of the cancer cells. In general, the lower is the degree of malignancy, the more favorable is your chance to survive. The low-grade cells reproduce slowly and usually have little tendency to invade surrounding tissues. The high-grade cells proliferate rapidly and are more likely to spread to other parts of the body to form metastases.