- 9 Other Types
- 7 Causes
- 5 Symptoms
The nasopharynx acts as a passageway for air to travel from the nose to the throat. It contains adenoids (mass of lymphatic tissue) and openings of the eustachian tubes (a tube-like structure that connects the ear to the throat). Due to the complicated position in this space, NPC is often difficult to diagnose in the early stages.
Other types of head and neck cancer
Other types of head and neck cancer include:
7 causes of cancer of the nasopharynx
The exact cause of nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is unknown. Genetic mutations and environmental triggers are known to predispose a person to the development of cancer.
Here are a few factors that may increase your risk of NPC:
- Gender: NPC is about two times more common in men than in women.
- Ethnicity: NPC is less common in the Caucasian population. In the United States, NPC is seen in Asian and Pacific Islanders (particularly Chinese Americans), followed by American Indian and Alaskan natives, African Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics/Latinos. People from Singapore, southern China (including Hong Kong), the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam, as well as Greenland and Canada, are more predisposed to this disease.
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): People with EBV have a high risk of NPC in the future. EBV infection is common in teens and goes by the name mononucleosis (mono).
- Diet: NPC is more frequent in people who eat diets that are very high in salt-cured fish and meat.
- Family history: People with a family history of NPC have a high likelihood of getting the disease. Whether this is because of inherited genes, diet, or other shared environmental factors is unknown.
- Addictions: Smoking and alcohol may increase your risk of NPC.
- Other possible risk factors: Exposure to aromatic compounds present in certain incense sticks and workplace exposure to aromatic carbon compounds such as benzene, phenols, and formaldehyde may also cause NPC.
5 symptoms of nasopharyngeal carcinoma
In many cases, cancer remains undetected up to late stages because it may not cause symptoms. In other cases, it may cause symptoms that include:
How is nasopharyngeal carcinoma diagnosed?
It is important to see your physician as soon as you suspect something is amiss.
A careful physical examination followed by blood tests, an endoscopy, imaging tests (such as computed tomography scans or magnetic resonance imaging), biopsy, bone scans, and positron emission tomography scans to check for tumor metastasis that helps diagnose the tumor and classify its type may be done.
Depending on the tumor size, local invasion, and distant spread, the surgeon will assign it a stage and grade (TNM classification), which will help chalk a treatment strategy.
How is nasopharyngeal carcinoma treated?
Treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) includes a multi-prong approach that consists of the following:
- Surgical tumor resection: This is a major surgery in which the surgeon will remove the tumor and a healthy margin of tissues from surrounding areas. They may also resect surrounding bony parts and lymph nodes to ensure no tumor cell remains in the area.
- Radiation therapy: This is often done to mop up any missed tumor cells in the head, neck, and face area. Most surgeries are followed by radiation therapy. In some cases, where the tumor is advanced and surgical resection is risky or not possible, the surgeon may give palliative radiation to reduce tumor size.
- Chemotherapy: Drugs such as cisplatin, carboplatin, and paclitaxel, among others, are administered in cycles to prevent the tumor from recurring.
The next two groups of drugs are often initiated after chemotherapy in selected cases:
- Targeted drug therapy for NPC: Recent interventions include targeted drug therapies that inhibit the epidermal growth factor receptor found on NPC cells using a drug called cetuximab. Such therapy is much more effective than chemo in some cases and has a better safety profile.
- Immunotherapy for NPC: Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab) are drugs that boost the immune response against cancer cells in NPC.
- Climate Change May Bring More Fungal Lung Infections
- Healthy Plant-Based Diets Lower Men's Odds for Colon Cancer
- Drinking Rates Crept Up in U.S. States Once Weed Was Made Legal
- Relax, a Little Stress Might Be Good for You
- High Deductibles Keep Some Women From Follow-Up After Troubling Mammogram
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Is Nasopharyngeal Cancer Head and Neck Cancer Related Articles
Cancer 101 SlideshowLearn the basics about cancer including types, causes, how it spreads, symptoms and signs, stages and treatment options. Read about the common type of cancers.
Top Cancer-Fighting FoodsExperts have praised certain foods for their ability to reduce cancer risks. Learn which foods and eating strategies may help reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Cancer QuizTake this quiz to learn the causes of cancer. Get the facts about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for the world's most common cancers.
Cancer: Does This Cause Cancer?Everything gives you cancer, right? Not really. WebMD's slide show tells you about the research into cancer and cell phones, X-rays, plastic bottles, coffee, and more.
Which Drug Is Used As a Targeted Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer?Erbitux (cetuximab), Keytruda (pembrolizumab), and Opdivo (nivolumab) are targeted molecules used for the treatment of locally or regionally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
Head and Neck CancerHead and neck cancer is cancer of the oral cavity, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, or lymph nodes in the upper part of the neck. These cancers account for 3% to 5% of cancers in the U.S. Tobacco and alcohol use are important risk factors. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
Head and Neck Cancer QuizLearn the facts about head and neck cancers.
How Is Oropharynx Cancer Diagnosed?Oropharyngeal cancer is diagnosed with a physical exam and medical history, followed by tests such as a neurological exam, PET-CT scan, MRI, and biopsy.
Is Oral Cancer Part of Head and Neck Cancer?Oral cancers are a type of head and neck cancer that can occur in the mouth or throat.
Larynx Cancer (Throat Cancer)Symptoms and signs of cancer of the larynx, the organ at the front of the neck, include hoarseness, a lump in the neck, sore throat, cough, problems breathing, bad breath, earache, and weight loss. Treatment for larynx cancer depends on the stage (the extent) of the disease. Radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy are all forms of treatment for laryngeal cancer.
Nasopharyngeal CancerNasopharyngeal cancer is a form of cancer in which malignant cells form in the nasopharynx tissues. Risk factors include being of Chinese or Asian ancestry and exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus. Symptoms and signs of nasopharyngeal cancer include a sore throat, a lump in the neck or nose, trouble hearing, nosebleeds, headaches, and trouble hearing, breathing, or speaking. Treatment depends upon the stage of the cancer, the tumor size, the type of cancer, and the patient's health and age.
Salivary Gland CancerSalivary gland cancer is cancer that affects the parotid glands, sublingual glands, or the submandibular glands. Risk factors include older age, radiation therapy treatment to head or neck, and being exposed to certain substances at work. Signs include fluid draining from the ear, pain, numbness, weakness, trouble swallowing, and a lump. Treatment depends upon the stage of the cancer and usually involves surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or radiosensitizers.
Thyroid CancerThere are four major types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Tumors on the thyroid are referred to as thyroid nodules. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include swollen lymph nodes, pain in the throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and a lump near the Adam's apple. Treatment usually involves chemotherapy, surgery, radioactive iodine, hormone treatment or external radiation and depends upon the type of thyroid cancer, the patient's age, the tumor size, and whether the cancer has metastasized.
Cancer: Visual Guide to Thyroid CancerFind out the symptoms of thyroid cancer, and learn how to treat it after you get a diagnosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer?While there may be no symptoms associated with salivary gland cancer, here are 8 potential signs to look out for if you suspect you have this cancer.
What Is the Most Common Head and Neck Cancer?Cancer in the head and neck region may affect your mouth (oral cavity), tongue, parts of the throat (pharynx), nose or nasal sinuses, salivary glands, gums, tonsils, voice-box (larynx) and middle ear. Globally, approximately 550,000 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer (HNC) every year.