Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (Ear, Nose, and Throat)
Head & Neck Nasophaynageal
About Nasopharyngeal Cancer | Susceptibility | Causes |
Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment
About Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer is a malignant tumor that develops in the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is the area where the back part of your nose opens into your upper throat. This is also where tubes from your ears open into your throat.
Susceptibility to Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer is rare. It most often affects people who are between 30 and 50 years of age. Men are more likely to have nasopharyngeal cancer than women.
You are most likely to get this cancer if you or your ancestors came from southern China, particularly Canton (now called Guangzhou) or Hong Kong. You are also more likely to get this cancer if you are from a country in Southeast Asia, such as Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand.
Causes of Nasopharyngeal Cancer
No one knows for sure what causes nasopharyngeal cancer. Eating salt-preserved foods (like fish, eggs, leafy vegetables, and roots) during early childhood may increase the risk of getting this form of cancer. The Epstein-Barr virus may also make a person more likely to get nasopharyngeal cancer. This is the same virus that causes infectious mononucleosis (also called mono). You may also inherit a tendency to get nasopharyngeal cancer.
Symptoms of Nasopharyngeal Cancer
If you have nasopharyngeal cancer, you might first notice a lump in your neck, you might have trouble hearing in one ear, or you might have nosebleeds, headaches, or ringing in one or both ears. You might notice a change in the way one side of your face feels.
Diagnosing Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Your doctor might use endoscopy to try to see the cancer. For this exam, a thin tube with a very small camera on the end is put into your nose. This lets your doctor get a closer look at the cancer tumor. During endoscopy, your doctor might take a small piece from the tumor. This is called a biopsy sample. The piece of tumor is then sent to a lab where it is looked at under a microscope.
Your doctor might also send you to have MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This exam takes a special picture of your nasopharynx so that your doctor can see how big the tumor is.
Treating Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Radiation is quite successful in treating cancer in the nasopharynx. You might also need to have chemotherapy (medicines used to treat cancer). Radiation and chemotherapy can make you feel tired and sick to your stomach. You may also have headaches for a while after radiation treatment.
Many people with nasopharyngeal cancer can live normal lives. A cure is more likely if the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.