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Tests for nasopharyngeal cancer

You usually have a nasendoscopy to look at the inside of your nose and back of your throat if you have symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer. Having a panendoscopy means your doctor can take samples (biopsies) of any abnormal areas.

If your only symptom is a swollen lymph node Open a glossary item in your neck, your GP may refer you to a neck lump clinic for an ultrasound and fine needle aspiration Open a glossary item (FNA).

After being diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer, you have further tests to find out its size and whether it has spread. This tells you the stage of your cancer. The stage helps your doctor to decide the best treatment for you. 

Nasendoscopy for nasopharyngeal cancer

A nasendoscopy is a test to look at the inside of the nose, throat (pharynx) and voice box (larynx). You usually have it in the outpatient clinic.

Panendoscopy for nasopharyngeal cancer

A panendoscopy is a test to have a closer look at your upper airway and to take samples of any abnormal areas (biopsies). You have it under general anaesthetic.

Testing your lymph nodes

You have an ultrasound scan of any swollen lymph nodes in your neck. Your doctor may take a sample of cells from the lymph node. This is called a fine needle aspiration or needle biopsy.

CT scan for nasopharyngeal cancer

A CT scan uses x-rays to take detailed pictures of your body from different angles. You have a CT scan of your head, neck and chest.

MRI scan for nasopharyngeal cancer

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It uses magnetism and radio waves to create pictures of inside the body.

PET-CT scan for nasopharyngeal cancer

A PET-CT scan combines a CT scan and a PET scan to give a detailed picture of inside the body. The CT scan takes a series of x-rays from all around your body. The PET scan uses a mildly radioactive drug to show up areas of your body where cells are more active than normal. 

Bone scan for nasopharyngeal cancer

A bone scan shows up changes or abnormalities in the bones. It is also called a radionuclide scan. You might have a bone scan to see whether the cancer has spread to your bones.

Last reviewed: 
03 Feb 2021
Next review due: 
03 Feb 2024
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