Diagnosis is established after thorough clinical examination and video Laryngoscopy with biopsy. The other test which can be done are CT Scan, MRI or PET Scan to know the extent of the disease.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Physical exam of the throat and neck: An examination 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.
Laryngoscopy: A procedure in which the doctor examines the larynx (voice box) with a mirror or with a laryngoscope (a thin, lighted tube).
Endoscopy: A procedure to look at organs and tissues inside the body to check for abnormal areas. An endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through an incision (cut) in the skin or opening in the body, such as the mouth. Tissue samples and lymph nodes may be taken for biopsy.
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.
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.
Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
Barium swallow: A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound). The liquid coats the esophagus and stomach, and x-rays are taken. This procedure is also called an upper GI series.
Staging is the process of finding out how far the cancer has spread. This is very important because the type of treatment and the outlook for recovery depends on the stage of the cancer.
The staging system most often used for laryngeal cancer is the TNM staging system, also known as the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) system.
This system gives three key pieces of information:
All this information is combined to arrive at a stage. After stage 0 (which is carcinoma in situ or cancer that has not grown beyond the lining layer of cells), stages are labeled using Roman numerals from I through IV (1-4). The smaller the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, for example, stage IV, means a more serious stage of the disease.