Nasopharyngeal cancer

Nasopharyngeal cancer

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP
Nasopharyngeal cancer | cancerGO

What is Nasopharyngeal cancer?

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat that connects the nose to the back of the mouth. Here’s an overview of the symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of nasopharyngeal cancer.


The symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer may be mild or unnoticeable at first and may be mistaken for other conditions. Some common symptoms include:

  • A lump in the neck
  • Persistent nasal congestion or feeling stuffy
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Numbness or tingling in the face
  • Facial pain

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that may increase a person’s likelihood of developing nasopharyngeal cancer, including:

  • Ethnicity: Nasopharyngeal cancer is most common in people of Asian descent, particularly those from southern China.
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection: EBV is a common virus that can cause infectious mononucleosis, and it has been linked to an increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Family history: People with a family history of nasopharyngeal cancer may be at increased risk.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: Exposure to wood dust, formaldehyde, or other chemicals may increase the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer.


To diagnose nasopharyngeal cancer, a doctor will perform a physical exam, review the patient’s medical history, and order various tests. These may include:

  • Endoscopy: An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a camera that is used to examine the nasopharynx.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue for evaluation in a laboratory to determine if cancer cells are present.
  • Imaging tests: A variety of imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRI scans, can provide detailed images of the nasopharynx and help identify any tumors or abnormalities.


The treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, its location in the nasopharynx, and the patient’s overall health. Some common treatments include:

  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy involves using high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink the tumor.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves using powerful drugs to kill cancer cells and stop them from growing and spreading.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be recommended to remove the tumor, especially if it is in a location that can be safely accessed.
  • Targeted therapy: This type of treatment uses drugs that specifically target cancer cells and limit damage to healthy cells.


The prognosis for nasopharyngeal cancer depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and the type of treatment used. In general, early-stage nasopharyngeal cancer has a better prognosis than advanced-stage cancer. However, advances in treatment options and improvements in care have led to better outcomes for many patients with nasopharyngeal cancer.


Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP
Julie is an oncology certified Oncology Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of medical oncology experience. In addition to her clinical work, she is an accomplished healthcare writer providing oncology content for various publications. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for a Master's nursing program and a chair for Doctoral nursing students.

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