Referral

If your GP thinks your symptoms may be due to head and neck cancer, you will be referred to see one of an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist at a Trust clinic.

Investigations and diagnosis

There are a number of investigations and scans patients may have in order to find out whether they have a head and neck cancer.

These investigations allow doctors to make a diagnosis and see the extent of any disease. Most, if not all of these investigations will be undertaken at a Trust clinic. If a head and neck cancer is confirmed, patients will be referred to Belfast City Hospital for treatment.

Diagnostic investigations may include:

  • Ultrasound – this test uses sound waves to produce a picture of your neck and lymph nodes on a computer screen
  • MRI – a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body
  • PET CT – an integrated PET-CT scan combines images from a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and a computed tomography (CT) scan that have been performed at the same time using the same machine
  • Biopsy – a small sample of tissue may is removed for examination and the cells will be looked at under a microscope

Staging and grading

Your cancer specialist needs certain information about the cancer to decide on the most appropriate treatment for you. This includes the stage and grade of the cancer. The stage of the cancer describes its size, position and whether it has spread to beyond the area of the body where it started.

Results

Your results will be discussed at the regional head and neck cancer multi-disciplinary meeting. The team will review all aspects of your care and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. A member of the team will discuss this with you.