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Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC)

What is nasopharyngeal carcinoma? 

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a rare cancer that forms in the nasopharynx, which is the section of your throat that connects to behind the nose. It is more common in Southeast Asia than other parts of the world. 

What are the symptoms of nasopharyngeal carcinoma?

While symptoms of this cancer may not appear in the earlier stages, when they do appear they include hearing loss, blood in the saliva, nasal congestion, ringing in the ears, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, bloody discharge from the nose, sore throat, and frequent ear infections. 

What causes nasopharyngeal carcinoma?

Medical professionals know that this cancer begins in the squamous cells of the nasopharynx, and they have identified a number of risk factors; however, they do not know the definitive cause of this cancer. These risk factors include being male, a family history of this cancer, the Epstein-Barr virus, being between the ages between 30 and 50, being exposed to salt-cured foods at a young age, and being of northern African, Southeastern Asian, or Chinese descent. 

How is nasopharyngeal carcinoma diagnosed?

It is often difficult to diagnose NPC, as symptoms do not appear in the earlier stages, and they are similar to more common conditions when they do appear. In order to diagnose it, doctors will perform a physical examination, a nasal endoscopy, and a biopsy. If a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, further tests will be used to properly stage it. Tests used for this may be CT scans, X-rays, PET scans, and MRIs. 

What are the treatments for nasopharyngeal carcinoma?

Treatment for NPC should be individualized based on each patient’s case. Options include radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. 

Where can I find out more about nasopharyngeal carcinoma?


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