Head and Neck Cancer

Diagnosis of Head and Neck Cancer

There are different methods of Head and Neck Cancer diagnosis. They are elaborated below.

  • Physical examination: A physical exam of the relevant body part such as the lips, throat, nasal cavity, inside of the mouth, etc. can be done to check for any lumps, discolorations, or abnormal appearance.
  • Biopsy: A procedure in which a group of cells or tissues are removed from the body part that is suspected of being cancerous to check and examine under the microscope by a pathologist.
  • Laryngoscopy: In this procedure, the doctor checks the larynx or voice box with a probe called the laryngoscope. It can also be used to extract cells from the vocal cords for analysis. This technique is primarily used in the diagnosis of laryngeal cancer and oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Nasoscopy: In this procedure, the doctor checks the inside of the nose for abnormalities or lumps that may be cancerous using a probe called the nasoscope. It can also be used to extract cells from the nose.
  • Upper endoscopy: Endoscopy is typically used to examine the stomach, but in this case, the probe, which is called an endoscope, is inserted into the nose or mouth and used to examine the nose, throat, and esophagus and in some cases the duodenum. It is used to detect nasopharyngeal cancer, laryngeal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, and salivary gland cancer.
  • Bronchoscopy: It probes the trachea and the bigger airways of the lung for anomalies using a bronchoscope (a thin, lighted tube) by inserting it through the nose or mouth into the lungs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: It uses an electromagnet, radio waves, and computational techniques to image the body internally and is a highly useful method in detecting cancer. This method is used in diagnosing almost all the different types of head and neck cancers.
  • CT scan (or CAT scan): Computerised tomography, computed tomography, or computerized axial tomography is used in creating a detailed image of the body’s internal organs by using x-rays. It is used prominently in Head and Neck Cancer diagnosis in almost all its various subtypes.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: It uses a small quantity of radioactive glucose which is injected into the body. The cancerous cells can be detected using the PET scanner, which rotates the body and images the parts where glucose is present since malignant cells show brighter on the image due to its higher absorption of energy. The method is used in detecting nasopharyngeal cancer, laryngeal cancer, hypopharyngeal cancer, and lip and oral cavity cancer.
  • PET-CT scan: The images obtained from the CT scan and the PET scan can be combined to get a more detailed picture of the area in question to make a more accurate diagnosis and prescribe the best treatment. This is used in the diagnosis of laryngeal cancer.
  • Ultrasound: This is also another imaging technique that works by radiating ultrasonic waves (sound waves) onto the tissues, which then bounce back to produce an image called the sonogram. The sonogram can be printed out and studied to make a diagnosis. It is mostly used to diagnose nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • X-ray: It is the most common radiative method of examining the body for ailments or anomalies, which uses X-Ray radiation for imaging. It is used in the diagnosis of nasopharyngeal and paranasal and sinus cavity cancers.
  • Bone scan: A small amount of radioactive element is injected into the bloodstream, which latches on to cancerous cells in the bone. It can be used to check if cancer has progressed into the bones. It is used to diagnose hypopharyngeal cancer and lip and oral cavity cancer.
  • Barium swallow: The patient drinks a liquid containing barium, which gets coated on the insides of the esophagus and the stomach. This is then studied using an X-Ray image of the suspected area. It is used to diagnose laryngeal cancer and lip and oral cavity cancer.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) test: It tests for the HPV DNA markers and antibodies in the blood and is used in the diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) scan: It tests for the EBV DNA markers and antibodies in the blood and is used in the diagnosis of nasopharyngeal cancer.