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Catching Throat Cancer Early

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"While bulky cancers of the larynx are fairly easy to diagnosis, early stage cancerous lesions might be missed on a typical exam," says Anthony Cultrara, MD, Virtua otolaryngologist. Compared to a standard tool, such as a laryngoscope, videostroboscopy offers superior imaging which can detect subtle lesions at an earlier stage."

Videostroboscopy utilizes three components: a microphone to register a patient's vocal frequency, a stroboscopic light source to illuminate the exam field, and a camera to record the exam.?e microphone is connected to a stroboscopic light source, which flashes slightly out of synch with the patient's vocal frequency giving a detailed high-magnification image of vocal folds vibration which produces sound. In reality, the vocal folds may vibrate several hundred times per second and may not be seen with the unaided eye. ?e exam may be recorded with a rigid fiber optic endoscope placed into the mouth, or a flexible telescope can be threaded through the nose. Therefore videostroboscopy is the best way to detect irregularities such as nodules, polyps, scars, cysts, and other lesions that may affect vocal fold vibration. The test generally lasts a few minutes and is digitally recorded and archived for later review. Because videostroboscopy is well tolerated in the office, it may also prevent the need for endoscopies under anesthesia. Beyond diagnostic advantages, it is effective for patient education and post-treatment evaluation.

Dr. Cultrara explains that anyone with persistent hoarseness or a voice change such as breathiness, vocal fatigue, decreased vocal range or pain that lasts for more than a few weeks ought to be examined. He says: "In some cases, these changes could be a symptom of throat cancer, which, when treated early, has a high cure rate."

This Virtua Physician article was last updated: August 25, 2008