If a Head and Neck Cancer Biopsy is Recommended

A patient receiving a head and neck exam

Biopsy & Panendoscopy (including laryngoscopy, esophagoscopy and possible bronchoscopy)

A biopsy is the removal of tissue for inspection under the microscope. A biopsy is the only way to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. Because many areas of the throat may not be accessible for easy and safe biopsing in the office, biopsies of these areas may be performed in the operating room with the patient asleep. In addition to being able to biopsy any suspicious areas, this affords the physician a better opportunity for a more thorough examination of areas of the head and neck which can not be seen in the office, such as the entrance to the esophagus, and the voice box. Special scopes are used to perform this exam called laryngoscopes, esophagoscopes and bronchoscopes.

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)

If a patient presents with a neck mass that can be felt, a needle may be placed into the mass and cells can be withdrawn for inspection under the microscope. However, cancerous neck masses often are the result of spread of cancer from another area and further examination in the operating room is still warranted.

Panendoscopy (including laryngoscopy, esophagoscopy and possible bronchoscopy)

Once the suspicion for a cancer in the head and neck is raised, the patient will be put to sleep in the operating room, and a thorough exam of the larynx, hypopharynx and esophagus is performed, called a panendoscopy, using scopes that permit visualization and biopsing of tissue. At this time the size of the tumor and the extent of spread to surrounding areas may be determined and a biopsy is performed.