Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Screening

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about screening for oral and oropharyngeal cancers. 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 oral and oropharyngeal cancers

Many of the symptoms of oral or oropharyngeal cancer can be caused by other, noncancerous health conditions. Therefore, it is important for people to receive regular health and dental care, especially those who routinely drink alcohol, currently use tobacco products, or have used tobacco products in the past.

Many dentists now perform oral and oropharyngeal cancer screening checks at regular dental appointments for everyone. If you currently use alcohol and tobacco or have used them in the past, you should receive a routine evaluation from their dentist and primary care doctor on a regular basis. 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 diagnostic procedures mentioned in the Diagnosis section.

Cancers of the oral cavity and oropharynx have a much better chance of being cured when they are caught early.

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