Endoscopy for laryngeal cancer

Endoscopy is a test that an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist uses to look at the:

  • back of your throat (pharynx)
  • voice box (larynx)
  • upper part of the food pipe (oesophagus)

An ENT specialist wouldn't usually look at the lower part of the food pipe or your stomach.

An endoscope is a long, flexible tube. It has a camera and light at one end, and an eyepiece at the other. Your doctor uses it to see the inside of your nose and throat very clearly.

This usually takes place while you are sedated. Your doctor might also call it an examination under anaesthesia (EUA). During this procedure, they may take a biopsy of any abnormal areas.

Preparing for an endoscopy

You might have a blood test 2 days beforehand to check how well your blood clots.

Tell your doctor if you're having medicine that changes how your blood clots. This includes:

  • aspirin
  • clopidogrel
  • arthritis medicines
  • warfarin or heparin
  • apixaban, rivaroxaban, dabigatran, edoxaban or betrixaban

Your doctor will tell you if you need to stop taking any other medicines.

You can't eat for 6 to 8 hours before the test but you might be able to drink sips of water up to 2 hours before your appointment. Your doctor or nurse gives you written instructions about this beforehand.

Talk to your doctor if not eating could be a problem for you. For example, if you have diabetes.

Your doctor will explain what they are going to do and you’ll sign a consent form. This is a good time to ask any questions you might have.

Usually you have an endoscopy in hospital as an outpatient. A doctor or a specialist nurse (endoscopist) does the test. A nurse stays with you when you have it. The test usually takes less than 30 minutes.

When you arrive at the clinic, the staff might ask you to take your upper clothing off and put on a hospital gown. 

You might have the test while you're awake but you can choose to have a medicine to make you drowsy (a sedative).

What happens during an endoscopy?

You lie down on the couch and have an injection of the sedative. It takes a few minutes for you to become sleepy.

Then the endoscopist passes the endoscope down your throat into your food pipe. The tube has an ultrasound probe. This uses sound waves to build up a picture so your doctor can see the food pipe, stomach and surrounding areas. They might also be able to see if the nearby lymph nodes are swollen (enlarged).

Diagram of an endoscopy

The endoscopist gently removes the tube.

What happens after an endoscopy?

You need to rest for a while after the test.

You can't eat or drink for about an hour, until the local anaesthetic throat spray wears off. You might not remember much about the test if you have had a sedative drug.

You should be able to go home the same day. You can't drive or drink alcohol for 24 hours after having a sedative. You need someone to take you home from hospital and stay with you during this time.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 to 2 weeks. The doctor who arranged your endoscopy gives them to you. 

Waiting for results can make you anxious. You can ask your doctor or nurse how long it takes to get them. Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven't heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Possible risks of an endoscopy

An endoscopy is a very safe procedure. But your nurse tells you who to contact if you have any problems afterwards. Your doctors make sure the benefits of having an endoscopy outweigh the possible risks.

The possible risks include:

A sore throat

You might have a sore throat for up to 24 hours. Contact the hospital if you have severe pain in your throat, chest or tummy (abdomen).


You might have bloating or mild discomfort for several hours after the test. This is due to the air that the endoscopist puts into the stomach during the test.


There is a risk of bleeding from the biopsy site. This is usually a small amount and stops on its own. In rare cases you may need to have a blood transfusion.

Small tear

There is a risk of a small tear (perforation) in the food pipe, stomach or small bowel. This is rare but can be serious. 

Fluid going into your lungs

There is a very small risk of fluid going into your lungs from your mouth during the test. Your nurse uses a tube to remove most of the fluid from your mouth to reduce this risk.

Shortness of breath

A reaction to the sedative can cause breathing difficulties but this is rare. Your nurse checks your oxygen levels during the test. You have oxygen through a tube that fits into your nose (nasal cannula).

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures, 9th, Professional Edition
    L Dougherty and S Lister (Editors)
    Royal Marsden Manual Series, Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • Cancer and its management, 7th edition

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    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

  • Improving outcomes in head and neck cancers 
    National Institute for Health and Care excellence, November 2004

Last reviewed: 
07 Oct 2022
Next review due: 
07 Oct 2024

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