Nasopharyngeal Cancer - Tests

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Please describe the tests and exams that led to a diagnosis of nasopharyngeal cancer.

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Tests that examine the nose and throat are used to detect (find) and diagnose nasopharyngeal cancer.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam of the throat: An exam 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.
  • Nasoscopy: A procedure to look inside the nose for abnormal areas. A nasoscope is inserted through the nose. A nasoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
  • Neurological exam: A series of questions and tests to check the brain, spinal cord, and nerve function. The exam checks a person's mental status, coordination, and ability to walk normally, and how well the muscles, senses, and reflexes work. This may also be called a neuro exam or a neurologic exam.
  • Head and chest X-rays: An X-ray of the skull 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do. PET scans may be used to find nasopharyngeal cancers that have spread to the bone.
  • Laboratory tests: Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body. These tests help to diagnose disease, plan and check treatment, or monitor the disease over time.
  • Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
Return to Nasopharyngeal Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: Valkyrie, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: September 25

A few months ago I blew an item out of my nose. It was skin colored and raspberry-like in appearance. There was a bit of bleeding, but not significant. Three weeks ago my nose would bleed when I blew it. There was a little at first, but it is getting progressively worse. I woke with my mouth and nasopharnyx full of blood and it took an hour to stop. I saw an ENT. He attempted to take it out in his office but could not. He sent the sample of what came out to pathology. I had a CT of the head and neck. The next day, I found that it was squamous cell, poorly differentiated, non-keritizing, basaloid featured cancer. I had outpatient surgery the following day. I understand it is stage 1. I had a PET scan that was clean.

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