Tests commonly used for Head and Neck Cancers
In this procedure, a series of x-rays of the stomach and esophagus are taken after a patient has ingested a barium-containing liquid. The barium helps to define the organs and vessels more clearly.
In this procedure, cells or tissues are removed for examination under a microscope. Exfoliative cytology, excisional biopsy, and fine needle aspiration (also sometimes called needle biopsy) all refer to different types of biopsies. In exfoliative cytology, cells are gently scraped from the oral cavity and then checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. An excisional biopsy involves the removal of an entire lump or suspicious area. A needle biopsy, also called afine needle aspiration, involves the removal a sample of tissue or fluid using a very fine needle.
CT (Computerized Tomography)
This procedure uses a computer linked to an x-ray machine to take snapshots of the body from different angles. The snapshots are put together to create detailed pictures of the inside of the body. In computerized axial tomography, the use of a dye which is either ingested by patients or injected into their veins, helps to increase the clarity of the tissues in the picture.
In this procedure, a tubular device called an endoscope is inserted into the mouth, nose or throat to check for abnormal tissues. The endoscope has a light and lens for viewing and can be fitted with a small biopsy tool for sampling suspicious looking tissues that can then by checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. An endoscopy can be done in the clinic. This procedure has different names depending on the region of the body being examined: a panendoscopy examines the hypopharynx, nasopharynx, larynx, esophagus and bronchus; a laryngoscopy examines the larynx; a nasopharyngoscopy examines the nasopharynx and nasal cavities.
In this procedure, a tube-like device called a transnasal flexible laryngoscope is inserted through the nose to permit an inspection of the larynx. Biopsies of suspicious looking tissue can be taken at the same time, and the procedure takes place in the clinic while patients remain awake.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
This procedure uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to generate very detailed pictures of the head and neck area.
During this procedure a detailed examination of the hypopharynx, nasopharynx or larynx is performed while patients are under general anaesthetic. The panendoscope is a metal tube inserted through the mouth and into the throat and permits a wide angle view of the area under observation. Excisional forceps at the end of the panendoscope can be used for taking a sample of any suspicious looking tissue.
PET (positron emission tomography)
This procedure locates malignant cancer cells in the head and neck area by using a PET scanner that rotates around the body in search of cancer cells. The scanner locates cancer cells that have absorbed radioactive glucose previously injected into the veins of patients.
This procedure is a combination of PET and CT where the scans from each are superimposed to provide more detailed information about the location of cancer cells in the body.
Radioactive Iodine Uptake
This procedure tests whether the thyroid gland is functioning normally. Patients swallow either a liquid or a capsule containing small doses of radioacative iodine which gets concentrated in thyroid gland. After 6 to 24 hours, patients return to the clinic and the level of radioactivity is tested by a gamma probe device to access the level of radioactivity.
This procedure is painless and uses sound waves aimed at the thyroid to generate a picture that provides information about the size of the thyroid, nodules, and lymph nodes close to the thyroid gland.
This procedure generates pictures of the inside of the body using an x-ray machine to focus a beam of energy at the body. The locations where the beam does not penetrate appear as whitish structures on an x-ray film.