Screening and Diagnosis

A diagnosis of head and neck cancer comes after a physical exam and several diagnostic tests. The exams and tests conducted may vary depending on the symptoms.

  • Physical Exam of the Throat

    An exam in which the doctor looks down the throat with a small, long-handled mirror to check for abnormal areas.

  • Endoscopy

    A procedure used to look at areas in the throat and voice box (larynx) that cannot be seen with a mirror during the physical exam of the throat. An endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the nose or mouth to check the throat for anything that seems unusual. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy.

  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography or CAT scan)

    A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography or computerized axial tomography.

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

    A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).

  • Head, Neck and Chest X-rays

    An X-ray of the head, neck and organs and bones inside the chest. An X-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.

  • Barium Esophagogram

    An X-ray of the esophagus. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound). The liquid coats the esophagus and X-rays are taken.

  • Esophagoscopy

    A procedure to look inside the esophagus to check for abnormal areas. An esophagoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the mouth or nose and down the throat into the esophagus. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy.

  • Bronchoscopy

    A procedure to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy.

  • Biopsy

    The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer

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