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Usually you begin by seeing your GP, who will ask about your symptoms, examine you and may arrange for some tests or x-rays.
Your doctor may then refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist at a hospital.
At the hospital, the specialist will ask about your current symptoms, medical history and whether you are taking any medicines. They will also feel for any lumps in your neck. These can be caused by enlarged lymph nodes.
In order to examine your throat, the doctor will pass a very thin, flexible tube with a light at the end, called a nasendoscope, into your nose to get a better view of the back of your mouth and throat.
This can be uncomfortable, but it will only last a few minutes. Before the procedure you may be asked to suck on a lozenge that contains a local anaesthetic that numbs the mouth for a few minutes. Or the area may be sprayed with an anaesthetic spray that numbs the back of your throat. If you have either of these, you shouldn't eat or drink anything for about an hour afterwards, until your throat has lost the numb feeling. This is because there’s a risk of things going into your windpipe instead of your gullet when you swallow. You could also burn your mouth or throat with hot drinks or food.
If there’s a lump in your neck, you may be sent for a scan| and a small piece of tissue (a biopsy) may be removed with a fine needle using a local anaesthetic.
If anything abnormal is seen in your throat, or if the doctor can’t see your larynx clearly with the nasendoscope, you will need to be admitted to hospital to have your larynx examined further|. You’ll have a general anaesthetic for this test. While you are under the anaesthetic, the doctor can usually see all parts of the larynx very well.
The doctor uses a tube with a tiny camera and light on the end, called an endoscope, to take a closer look at the larynx. If any areas look abnormal, they will take a biopsy and examine this under a microscope. If you have a general anaesthetic, you may have to stay in hospital overnight. However, some people can go home on the same day once they’ve recovered from the procedure. Your doctor or specialist nurse will give you more information about this.
Content last reviewed: 1 April 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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