Diagnosing Head & Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer specialist and patient.

Over the past several years, diagnosing head and neck cancer has occurred at earlier stages thanks to greater public awareness of the disease and improved technology.

An earlier diagnosis is important because early-stage tumors are less likely to have spread beyond the primary site.

If there is a reason to suspect you may have a cancer of the head and neck, the doctor will use one or more methods to find out if the disease is really present.

Essentials of Diagnosis for Head and Neck Cancer at Virginia Mason in Seattle

Consult with Head and Neck Cancer Specialist — If there is a suspicion of head and neck cancer, one should consult with an otolaryngologist — a physician trained in the diagnosis and treatment of head and neck diseases and disorders.

Complete medical history — The first step in any medical evaluation involves gathering information about symptoms, risk factors, family history, and past medical conditions.

Complete head and neck exam including nasopharyngoscopy and laryngoscopy — In addition to a complete physical exam, special attention to the head and neck region is imperative. Because the regions of the larynx, and hypopharynx are not readily visible, special fiberoptic scopes and mirrors are used to visualize these regions in the clinic. Because of the high risk for additional cancers in the head and neck region, these scopes are also used to visualize the region behind the nose (the nasopharynx) and oral cavity as well. The neck, tongue, floor of mouth, and rest of the oral cavity are then visualized and palpated for any evidence of masses.

For more information about diagnosing head and neck cancer, contact us at (206) 341-0675.