Mayo Clinic's multispecialty team of doctors uses the latest diagnostic techniques to identify the cancer cells and determine the extent (stage) of the cancer progression.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose tonsil cancer include:
- Physical exam. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive exam to understand your condition and investigate your signs and symptoms. Your doctor will carefully examine your mouth and will feel your neck for any abnormalities. A mirror or a small, flexible, fiber-optic scope may be used to closely examine your tonsils and surrounding tissue.
- Imaging tests. Imaging tests help your doctor understand the extent of your cancer and aid in treatment planning. Your doctor may recommend computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET).
- Removing a sample of tissue for testing. In order to confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may recommend removing a sample of suspicious tissue from your tonsil for laboratory testing.
In the lab, highly skilled and experienced pathologists examine the tissue under microscopes to determine the types of cells involved and rate the aggressiveness of the cancer.
At Mayo Clinic, all tonsil cancers are tested for the presence of the HPV virus because this greatly influences prognosis and treatment.
Nov. 12, 2014
- Flint PW, et al. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 9, 2014.
- Shah JP, et al. Jatin Shah's Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 9, 2014.
- Oropharyngeal cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/oropharyngeal/HealthProfessional. Accessed Sept. 9, 2014.
- Head and neck cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Sept. 9, 2014.
- Cook AJ. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 7, 2014.
- Moore EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. Sept. 29, 2014.
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