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Some larger “throat cancers” will be detectable on plain x-rays, but CT will detect much smaller ones. In some cases, MRI is even more sensitive. Ultrasound is useful in a few instances.
The most sensitive way to detect throat cancer is to have an experienced physician examine the patient. (A detailed history will usually tell you where it is before you even look.) Most can be seen by looking in the mouth/throat – if they are in the oropharynx – or – looking at the nasopharynx and hypopharynx/larynx with a naso-laryngoscope if they are above or below that level. Cancers in the base of the tongue can often be felt with a finger, even if they are below the surface. Palpation (feeling) is an important part of doing a proper head and neck exam.
“Throat cancer” includes those arising in the nasopharynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx – most non-oncologists and layman think of larynx as part of the “throat” as well.
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