Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is nasopharyngeal cancer?
Nasopharyngeal (say: "nay-zo-fair-in-gee-al")
cancer is a tumor that develops in the nasopharynx (say: "nay-zo-fair-inks").
The nasopharynx is the area where the back part of your nose opens into your
upper throat. This is also where tubes from your ears open into your throat.
Who might get nasopharyngeal
Nasopharyngeal cancer is rare. You are most
likely to get this cancer if you or your ancestors came from southern China,
particularly Canton (now called Guangzhou) or Hong Kong.
You are also more likely to get this cancer if
you are from a country in Southeast Asia, like Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia or
What causes nasopharyngeal
One possible cause is eating salt-preserved
foods (like fish, eggs, leafy vegetables and roots) during early childhood.
Another possible cause is the Epstein-Barr virus. This is the same virus that
causes infectious mononucleosis, which is also called "mono." You may also
inherit a tendency to get nasopharyngeal cancer.
What are some signs of
If you have nasopharyngeal cancer, you might
first notice a lump in your neck. You might have trouble hearing in one ear, or
you might have nosebleeds, headaches, or ringing in one or both ears. You might
feel a change in sensation over one side of your face.
How can my doctor tell if I have
Your doctor might use endoscopy (say:
"in-dos-ko-pee") to try to see the cancer. For this exam, a thin tube with a
very small camera on the end is put into your nose. This lets your doctor get a
closer look at the cancer tumor.
During endoscopy, your doctor might take a small
piece from the tumor (a biopsy sample). The piece of tumor is then sent to a lab
where it is looked at under a microscope.
Your doctor might also send you to have MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging). This exam is done to see how big the tumor is.
How is nasopharyngeal cancer
Many people with nasopharyngeal cancer can live
normal lives. Cure is more likely if the cancer has not spread to other parts of
the body. Radiation is quite successful in treating cancer in the nasopharynx.
You might also need to have chemotherapy (medicines used to treat cancer).
Radiation and chemotherapy can make you feel
tired and sick to your stomach. You also might have headaches for a while after