Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

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Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is cancer that takes place in the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is situated behind the nose and above the throat. Nasopharyngeal cancer is uncommon in the United States. It is much more common in other regions of the world, especially in Southeast Asia. Nasopharyngeal cancer is hard to identify early. This is likely since the nasopharynx is not easy to examine, and the symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer are similar to other common conditions.

Medication for nasopharyngeal cancer involves chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. You may work with your specialist to determine the particular approach for your specific situation.


In the early phases, nasopharyngeal cancer might not cause symptoms. Possible notable symptoms of this condition include the following.

  • A lump in the neck initiated by an inflamed lymph node
  • Bloody discharge from the nose
  • Blood in the saliva
  • Stuffy nose or ringing in the ears
  • Regular ear infections
  • Hearing loss
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

When to Visit a Doctor

The first symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer might not always trigger you to visit your doctor. See your ENT doctor in Los Angeles if you realize persistent and unusual changes in the body that do not seem accurate to you, for instance, strange nasal congestion.

Nasopharyngeal Cancer Diagnosis

If you visit your doctor with symptoms that might indicate nasopharyngeal cancer, they will ask about these symptoms and run tests. This might include examining the throat with a light and a small mirror. Your doctor will suggest you visit a specialist (commonly called oncologist) if he thinks more tests are needed. Several tests can be done in the hospital to detect nasopharyngeal cancer and exclude other conditions. Some tests that can be performed include the following:
Physical Test and History
This is a test of the body for general health symptoms, including looking for signs of other diseases or other unusual signs. The doctor will look into the medical history of the person’s health habits and previous treatments and illnesses.
Neurological exam
This is a sequence of tests and questions to check the spinal cord’s function, brain, and nerves. The test checks an individual’s coordination, mental state, ability to pace normally, and how good the senses, muscles, and reflexes function. This might also be referred to as a neurological or neuro exam.
This is the removal of tissues or cells so that a pathologist can view them under a microscope and look for signs of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The tissue section is removed at the time of one of these procedures.
This is a procedure to check inside your nose for unusual areas. A rhinoscope is put in via your nose. A rhinoscope refers to a thin tubular instrument with a lens and a light for viewing. It might also have a device to remove the tissue samples, which are examined under a microscope.
Upper Endoscopy
This is a process to look inside the throat, nose, stomach, esophagus, and duodenum. An endoscope is put in through the mouth into the stomach, esophagus, and duodenum. An endoscope refers to a thin tubular instrument with a lens and light for viewing.
This procedure utilizes radio waves, a magnet, and a computer to create a series of comprehensive images of parts of the body. This technique is also known as NMRI (nuclear magnetic resonance imaging).
Computed Tomography (CT) scan
This procedure takes a sequence of detailed images of parts of the body, like the upper abdomen and the chest, from different angles. The photos are taken by a computer connected to an x-ray device. A dye might be injected or swallowed into a vein to assist the tissues or organs in showing up more plainly.


Cancer starts when genetic mutations trigger normal cells to develop uncontrollably, invade adjacent structures, and finally spread to other body regions. In nasopharyngeal cancer, this process starts in the squamous cells, which line the nasopharynx exterior.

The exact cause of the genetic mutations that result in nasopharyngeal cancer is unknown. However, factors like the Epstein-Barr virus have been found to raise the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer. However, it is unclear why other individuals with all potential factors never grow cancer, while others without obvious risk elements.

Risk Factors

Researchers have recognized some factors that crop up to increase your possibility of growing nasopharyngeal cancer.

  • Sex: Nasopharyngeal cancer is more prevalent in men than women
  • Race: This kind of cancer most frequently affects individuals in Southeast Asia, China, and North Africa. In the US, Asian immigrants are at greater risk of developing this cancer than Asians born in America. Inuit in Alaska are also at increased risk for nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Age: This cancer can take place at any age; however, it is usually diagnosed in grown-ups between the age of 30 and 50.
  • Salty foods: Chemicals released by steam when salty cooking foods, such as canned fish and vegetables, can enter the nasal cavity, growing the chances of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Exposure to these chemicals at a young age can further increase your risk.
  • Epstein-Barr virus: This popular virus usually causes mild symptoms, like a cold. Sometimes it may cause infectious mononucleosis. The Epstein-Barr virus has also been linked to numerous rare cancers, comprising nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Family history: Having a family member with nasopharyngeal cancer increases the chance of getting the disease.
  • Tobacco and alcohol: Excessive use of alcohol and tobacco can increase the risk of having nasopharyngeal cancer.


Complications of nasopharyngeal cancer may be:

  • Cancer that develops to invade adjacent structures. Enhanced nasopharyngeal carcinoma may cause difficulties if it grows big enough to attack close structures, such as the bones, throat, and brain.
  • Cancer that attacks other regions of your body. Nasopharyngeal cancer often spreads (metastasizes) outside of the nasopharynx.

Most individuals with nasopharyngeal cancer have regional metastases. This means that cancer cells have migrated from the original tumor to nearby areas. Cancer cells that move to other parts of the body (distant metastases) travel to the lungs, bones, and liver.


There is no sure way to prevent nasopharyngeal cancer. However, if you are concerned about nasopharyngeal cancer risk, consider avoiding behaviors related to the disease. For example, you can choose to reduce the number of salty foods you consume or avoid altogether.


The prognosis for nasopharyngeal cancer depends on your general health, age, and how advanced the condition is when it is diagnosed. Radiation therapy can regularly cure a very early-stage of nasopharyngeal cancer; however, the condition is diagnosed at a later stage because it does not cause obvious signs and symptoms until later. More progressive cancers are cured with a mixture of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They are often treatable if cancer has not spread beyond the neck and head area. To access quality services, search for the following treatments: laryngoscopy, adenoidectomy, or bronchoscopy in Los Angeles.

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Head & Neck Cancer

Head & Neck Cancer is a term used to describe a number of different malignant tumors that develop in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses, and mouth.

Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, meaning they begin in the flat, squamous cells that make up the thin surface layer of the structures in the head and neck. Directly beneath this lining, which is called the epithelium, some areas of the head and neck have a layer of moist tissue, called the mucosa. If a cancer is limited to the squamous layer of cells, it is called carcinoma in situ. If the cancer has grown beyond this cell layer and moved into the deeper tissue, then it is called invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

Types of Head & Neck Cancer

There are five main types of head and neck cancer, each named according to the part of the body where they develop.   For more information, including signs and symptoms about each different form of  head and neck cancers listed below, click on the links below to read more on

Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer. The larynx is commonly called the voice box. It is a tube-shaped organ in the neck that is important for breathing, talking, and swallowing. It is located at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. The hypopharynx is also called the gullet. It is the lower part of the throat that surrounds the larynx.

Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer. The nasal cavity is the space just behind the nose where air passes on the way to the throat. The paranasal sinuses are the air-filled areas that surround the nasal cavity.

Nasopharyngeal Cancer. The nasopharynx is the air passageway at the upper part of the throat behind the nose.

Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer. The oral cavity includes the mouth and tongue. The oropharynx includes the middle of the throat from the tonsils to the tip of the voice box.

Salivary Gland Cancer. The salivary gland is tissue that produces saliva, which is the fluid that is released into the mouth to keep it moist and that contains enzymes that begin breaking down food.

Information above provided by & approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board06/2014

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