Nasopharyngeal cancer

It’s usually diagnosed around the age of 50. In some parts of the world it may be diagnosed in much younger people.

 

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare form of throat cancer that develops on the surface of the nasopharynx at the back of the nasal cavity. Men are three times more likely than women to get this type of cancer.
 

What is nasopharyngeal cancer?

The throat, or pharynx, has three sections. One of them is the nasopharynx, a small area connecting the back of your nose to the back of your mouth.

There are different types of nasopharyngeal cancer. The most common is nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).

Nasopharyngeal cancer is difficult to diagnose, as symptoms can be very similar to other less serious conditions.

Causes of nasopharyngeal cancer

No one is certain what causes nasopharyngeal cancer. You’re more likely to get it if you:
 

    • You are of south Chinese or north African family
    • Your diet is high in salt-cured meats and fish
    • You’ve had the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes glandular fever)
    • You come into regular contact with hardwood dust
    • One or more of your close relatives have had nasopharyngeal cancer
    • You’ve had the human papillomavirus (HPV)

Symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer

Some of the warning signs of nasopharyngeal cancer are similar to other non-cancer conditions. Symptoms can include:

A constant ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

A lump in your neck that’s still there after three weeks

A blocked or stuffy nose – often on one side

Changes to how you speak – especially a hoarse voice

Constant headaches

Double vision

Fluid in the ear

Losing your hearing - usually in one ear

Nosebleeds

Numbness on your face, in the lower part

Weight loss

Having one or more of these signs doesn’t mean you have cancer but it’s best to ask your doctor for advice. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

Tests and diagnosis

Your doctor will discuss your symptoms with you. They may carry out a physical examination and refer you to a specialist for more tests including:

  • Biopsy – a small tissue sample is taken for further examination
  • Blood tests
  • Nasendoscopy – a thin flexible telescope is inserted into the nose and down the throat to look for abnormalities
  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) – to collect cells from any swellings in the neck for analysis
  • Scans including CT, MRI
  • Panendoscopy – a more detailed examination of your nose and throat that happens under general anaesthetic
  • X-rays of the skull

Treatments we offer

Nasopharyngeal cancer is difficult to treat with surgery because of its location. Other treatments may include radiotherapy and chemotherapy (in advanced cases).
 
 

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

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Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

Read more

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

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Meet our doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

Search for a centre near you

Maidstone

17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UA

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Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

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Nottingham

The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX

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Portsmouth

Bartons Road, Havant, PO9 5NA

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Guildford

BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, GU1 3LX

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Southampton

Spire Hospital, Chalybeate Close, Southampton, SO16 6UY

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Chelmsford

Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

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Elstree

Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ

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Oxford

Sandy Lane West, Peters Way, Oxford, OX4 6LB

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Milton Keynes

Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood East, Milton Keynes, MK14 6LS

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Newmarket

The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket, CB8 7XN

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Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HD

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