This involves taking a small piece (sample) from the cancer. The sample is then examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells. This is often the only sure way to tell if you have cancer.
Your doctor may recommend biopsy of the hypopharynx or needle biopsy.
Biopsy of the hypopharynx: This is commonly referred to as microlaryngoscopy and will need to be performed under a general anaesthetic, so that you don't feel any pain. During this procedure which is performed through the open mouth, your doctor will be able to accurately map the cancer and take a small sample for assessment. There may be some bleeding after the biopsy. If you take blood thinners (e.g. warfarin), you may need to stop these before the biopsy.
Needle biopsy (Fine Needle Aspiration or FNA): This is used when there is a lump (enlarged lymph node) in the neck that could have cancer cells in it. During the procedure, your doctor will take some cells from the lump using a needle. Usually this is done with guidance from an ultrasound to make sure the needle is in the right spot. You may feel a bit uncomfortable during the biopsy.