Diagnosis

If a patient has symptoms that could be laryngeal cancer, the doctor will test for fever and high blood pressure and check general signs of health. The patient will likely have one or more of the following tests:

Physical Exam - An examination in which the doctor feels for swollen lymph nodes in the neck and looks down the throat with a small, long-handled mirror to check for abnormal areas.

Laryngoscopy - A procedure in which the doctor examines the larynx (voice box) with a mirror or with a laryngoscope (a thin, lighted tube).

Endoscopy - A procedure to look at organs and tissues inside the body to check for abnormal areas. An endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through an incision (cut) in the skin or opening in the body, such as the mouth. Tissue samples and lymph nodes may be taken for biopsy.

Panendoscopy - A procedure that combines laryngoscopy, esophagoscopy, and (at times) bronchoscopy. This allows the doctor to thoroughly examine the entire area containing the larynx and hypopharynx, including the esophagus and trachea (windpipe). The doctor will look at these areas through the scope to find any tumor, see how large it is, and see how far it may have spread to surrounding areas.

CT Scan (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).

Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan) - A radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into the vein. Cancers use glucose at a higher rate than normal tissues, so radioactivity will concentrate in the cancer. A scanner can spot the radioactive deposits. This test can be helpful for spotting small collections of cancer cells. It may also help tell if a tumor is benign or malignant.

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

Barium Swallow - A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound). The liquid coats the esophagus and stomach, and x-rays are taken. This procedure is also called an Upper GI Series.

Once the results from the test or procedure are returned you will be able to make thoughtful decisions. Please see Newly Diagnosed  for information on being patient active, treatment decisions, partnering with your healthcare team and finding support. 

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is difficult. Please see Caregivers and/or Online Support for more information on how the Cancer Support Community can offer support.

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