About nasopharyngeal cancer
What is nasopharyngeal cancer?
Nasopharyngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the nasopharynx.
The nasopharynx is the upper part of the pharynx (throat) behind the nose. The pharynx is a hollow tube about 5 inches long that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach). Air and food pass through the pharynx on the way to the trachea or the esophagus. The nostrils lead into the nasopharynx. An opening on each side of the nasopharynx leads into an ear. Nasopharyngeal cancer most commonly starts in the squamous cells that line the oropharynx (the part of the throat behind the mouth).
What are the symptoms for nasopharyngeal cancer?
Early nasopharyngeal carcinoma symptoms may not always prompt you to see your doctor. However, if you notice any unusual and persistent changes in your body that don't seem right to you, such as unusual nasal congestion, see your doctor.
What are the causes for nasopharyngeal cancer?
Cancer begins when one or more genetic mutations cause normal cells to grow out of control, invade surrounding structures and eventually spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. In nasopharyngeal carcinomas, this process begins in the squamous cells that line the surface of the nasopharynx.
Exactly what causes the gene mutations that lead to nasopharyngeal carcinoma isn't known, though factors, such as the Epstein-Barr virus, that increase the risk of this cancer have been identified. However, it isn't clear why some people with all the risk factors never develop cancer, while others who have no apparent risk factors do.
What are the treatments for nasopharyngeal cancer?
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
- The stage of the cancer (whether it affects part of the nasopharynx, involves the whole nasopharynx, or has spread to other places in the body).
- The type of nasopharyngeal cancer.
- The size of the tumor.
- The patient's age and general health.
What are the risk factors for nasopharyngeal cancer?
Researchers have identified some factors that appear to increase your risk of developing nasopharyngeal carcinoma, including:
- Sex. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is more common in men than it is in women.
- Race. This type of cancer more commonly affects people in parts of China, Southeast Asia and northern Africa. In the United States, Asian immigrants have a higher risk of this type of cancer than do American-born Asians. Inuits in Alaska also have an increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer.
- Age. Nasopharyngeal cancer can occur at any age, but it's most commonly diagnosed in adults between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Salt-cured foods. Chemicals released in steam when cooking salt-cured foods, such as fish and preserved vegetables, may enter the nasal cavity, increasing the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Being exposed to these chemicals at an early age may increase the risk even more.
- Epstein-Barr virus. This common virus usually produces mild signs and symptoms, such as those of a cold. Sometimes it can cause infectious mononucleosis. The Epstein-Barr virus is also linked to several rare cancers, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
- Family history. Having a family member with nasopharyngeal carcinoma increases your risk of the disease.
- Alcohol and tobacco. Heavy alcohol intake and tobacco use can raise your risk of developing nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
Is there a cure/medications for nasopharyngeal cancer?
Together, you and your doctor come up with a treatment plan depending on the stage of your cancer, your treatment objectives, your general health, and the side effects you're willing to put up with.
1. Radiation therapy or a radiation and chemotherapy combination is typically used as the first step in the treatment of nasopharyngeal cancer.
2. High-powered energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, are used in radiation therapy to kill cancer cells. External beam radiation is the typical method used to give radiation therapy for nasopharyngeal cancer. You will be lying on a table during this process as a big machine is moved around you to direct radiation to the exact location where your cancer can be targeted.
3. Radiation therapy may be the sole treatment needed for tiny nasopharyngeal tumors. In other cases, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used together.
4. There is a chance that radiation therapy will cause adverse effects such as transient skin redness, hearing loss, and dry mouth.
5. Especially when chemotherapy is included, radiation therapy for the head and neck sometimes results in severe mouth and throat sores. It can be challenging to eat or drink while these sores are present. If this happens, your doctor can advise placing a tube in your stomach or throat. You receive food and liquids through the tube while your mouth and throat heal.
Blood in saliva,Nasal congestion