Diagnostic tests for throat cancer require that an ENT specialist examines the patient in the sitting position with the patient awake. The laryngoscope, which is a very thin and long wirelike, flexible structure, is now advanced through the previously anesthesized nasal cavity into the space of the pharynx and into the airway of the vocal cord area.
The vocal cord is inspected and the finer movements of these structures are analyzed with a stroboscope with which the motions of the vocal cords can be studied in slow motion. For early cancer of the vocal cords the most sensitive test is this examination, which picks up early throat cancer long before other imaging studies would detect it.
When a voice change is detected, either by the patient himself or by a close friend or relative, the patient should be referred as soon as possible to the ENT specialist for this throat examination (laryngoscopy and stroboscope examination). Here is a link to a site with a picture of laryngoscopy findings regarding throat cancer (thanks to www.tobacco-facts.info for this link). Ultrasound studies can also help to localize the tumor.
When the examination has confirmed throat cancer with the help of visualizing it and also by biopsy samples that were obtained during the laryngoscopy, other tests are then done such as CT and MRI scans. This will tell the physician the extent of the cancer and enable the physician to determine the stage of the cancer in a particular patient. The biopsy sample will be analyzed by the pathologist and this determines the histology of the tumor. This information is needed for the prognosis as more mature cancer cells have a better outcome than less mature cells.
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2. Cancer: Principles&Practice of Oncology. 5th edition, volume 1. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott-Raven Publ., Philadelphia,PA, 1997. Chapter on Tumors of the Larynx and Hypopharynx.
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4. Conn’s Current Therapy 2004, 56th ed., Copyright © 2004 Elsevier
5. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment, 2004 ed., Copyright © 2004 Mosby, Inc