What is nasopharyngeal cancer?
The nasopharynx is the area in the upper part of your throat behind your nose. Nasopharyngeal cancer is cancer of the nasopharynx.
Nasopharyngeal cancer is most common in people who live in southern China and southeast Asia or in those whose families came from those areas—it’s rare in other groups
Nasopharyngeal cancer usually causes lumps in your neck
You may also have congestion in your nose, hearing loss or a feeling of fullness or pain in your ears, and blood in your spit or when you blow your nose
Doctors treat nasopharyngeal cancer with radiation therapy Radiation Therapy for Cancer Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink cancer tumors. Doctors use radiation to treat many types of cancer, including head, neck... read more , chemotherapy Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is a drug that destroys cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by shutting down cell growth. But since all cells in the body grow, chemotherapy drugs also destroy some normal cells and... read more , and sometimes surgery
Locating the Nasopharynx
What causes nasopharyngeal cancer?
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of nasopharyngeal cancer. They think the Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes mono Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) Infectious mononucleosis, often called mono, is a viral infection that is most common in teens and young adults. Mono is spread by close contact, such as kissing, with infected people Symptoms... read more ) plays a role. You’re more likely to get nasopharyngeal cancer if:
You have family members who’ve had nasopharyngeal cancer
Your diet has a lot of salted fish and foods with nitrates (such as hot dogs, sausage, and deli meat)
You're from southern China or southeast Asia
What are the symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer?
The first symptom of nasopharyngeal cancer is usually:
Lumps in your neck from the cancer spreading to your lymph nodes
Lymph nodes swell when your body has an infection or cancer. Swollen lymph nodes are sometimes called "swollen glands," but lymph nodes aren't really glands.
Other symptoms are:
Congestion and sometimes bleeding from one side of your nose
A feeling of fullness or pain in one ear
Hearing loss in one ear
Swelling in your face
How can doctors tell if I have nasopharyngeal cancer?
If doctors suspect nasopharyngeal cancer, they'll look in your nasopharynx using a special flexible viewing tube. If they see something that might be a cancer, they'll do a biopsy (remove a sample of the tissue for testing).
If you have nasopharyngeal cancer, doctors will do tests to see if your cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Such tests may include:
How do doctors treat nasopharyngeal cancer?
Nasopharyngeal cancer is more easily treated when caught early.
Doctors treat nasopharyngeal cancer with:
Radiation therapy Radiation Therapy for Cancer Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink cancer tumors. Doctors use radiation to treat many types of cancer, including head, neck... read more plus chemotherapy Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is a drug that destroys cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by shutting down cell growth. But since all cells in the body grow, chemotherapy drugs also destroy some normal cells and... read more
If the cancer comes back after this, doctors may do surgery.
Radiation to your nasopharynx may cause:
Loss of taste
Trouble swallowing and speaking
Dental problems, if your teeth were exposed to radiation