Pathology tests involve the laboratory testing of blood, body fluids and tissues. There are three common pathology tests for head and neck cancer.
Cytology uses a needle to remove cells so they can be looked at under a microscope. It is often used if you have swollen (enlarged) lymph glands, neck cysts and thyroid nodules.
Histopathology is when part or all of the cancer cells are looked at under a microscope. The cancer cells are usually collected during a biopsy and sent to a doctor trained in looking at cells in the body (pathologist) for testing. The pathologist will be able to tell your doctor the type of cancer, its grade, and other details that will help your doctor work out the best treatment for your type of cancer.
Blood tests are not typically used to diagnose of screen for most types of head and neck cancer. There are some blood tests that can be used to look for certain types of thyroid cancer. Sometimes your healthcare team will ask you to have blood tests to make sure that your blood, kidneys, and liver are working normally.