Mayo Clinic's multispecialty team of doctors uses the latest diagnostic techniques to identify the type of tumor cells and the extent of cancer progression (stage). The first step in diagnosing tonsil cancer is an in-depth exam by your doctor. Your doctor also uses a mirror or a small, flexible, fiber-optic instrument to examine your tonsils and surrounding tissue (endoscopy). In tests that involve radiation, specialists carefully monitor doses to avoid the risk of radiation overexposure. Tests may include:
Before recommending treatment, doctors at Mayo Clinic often take a small sample of tissue (biopsy) from the tonsil. Pathologists examine the tissue under a microscope to determine the type of cancer cells present. Most often, the tonsil cancer tissue is classified as squamous cell carcinoma.