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Nasopharyngeal cancer is a disease wherein cancer cells form in the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nose. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is the most common type.
Other cancers that can be found in the nasopharynx:
- Adenoid cystic carcinoma
These tests and procedures can help detect and diagnose nasopharyngeal cancer:
- Physical exam of the throat
- Neurological exam
- Head and chest x-rays
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- CT scan (CAT scan)
- PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)
- Laboratory tests
Nasopharyngeal cancer may cause some of the symptoms listed below, but other conditions may cause the same symptoms. See a doctor if you have any of these problems:
- A lump in the nose or neck
- A long-term sore throat
- Trouble breathing or speaking
- Trouble breathing through the nose
- Trouble hearing
- Pain or ringing in the ear(s)
There are 3 kinds of standard treatment:
1. Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses x-rays or other kinds of radiation to kill cancer cells or slow their growth.
There are 2 kinds of radiation therapy. The type of treatment used depends on the type and stage of the cancer.
- External radiation therapy: A machine beams radiation into the body, targeting the cancer.
- Internal radiation therapy: Needles, wires or catheters that contain a radioactive compound are put into or near the cancer.
Radiation works best when the patient quits smoking before starting treatment.
2. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a treatment using drugs that either kill cancer cells or slow their growth. There are several types of chemotherapy available, depending on the type and stage of the cancer.
3. Surgery: Nasopharyngeal cancer that does not respond to radiation may be treated with surgery. If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, surgeons may remove lymph nodes and other tissue from the neck.
A successful recovery depends on:
- Cancer stage (whether it affects part of the nasopharynx, involves the whole nasopharynx, or has spread to other places in the body)
- Type of nasopharyngeal cancer
- Tumor size
- Age and general health
- Being male
- Eating too much salt-cured fish and meats
- Chinese or Asian ancestry
- Exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus
- Family history
- Exposure to formaldehyde or wood dust