Head and Neck Cancer: Screening

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about screening for head and neck cancer. You will also learn the risks and benefits of screening. Use the menu to see other pages.

Screening is used to look for cancer before you have any symptoms or signs. Scientists have developed, and continue to develop, tests that can be used to screen a person for specific types of cancer. The overall goals of cancer screening are to:

  • Lower the number of people who die from the disease, or eliminate deaths from cancer altogether

  • Lower the number of people who develop the disease

Learn more about the basics of cancer screening.

Screening information for head and neck cancer

People who routinely drink alcohol, currently use tobacco products, or have used tobacco products in the past should receive general health screening examination at least once a year. This is a simple, quick procedure in which the doctor looks in the nose, mouth, and throat for abnormalities and feels for lumps in the neck. If anything unusual is found, the doctor will recommend a more extensive examination using 1 or more of the procedures described in the Diagnosis section.

Regular dental checkups are also important to screen for head and neck cancer. Check in your local community to see if free oral cancer screenings are available.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what changes or medical problems head and neck cancer can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.