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Nasopharyngeal Cancer

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Medically Reviewed Apr 2022 | Modified Sep 2022
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What is nasopharyngeal cancer?

The nasopharynx is the area in the upper part of your throat behind your nose. Nasopharyngeal cancer is cancer of the nasopharynx.

Locating the Nasopharynx

A Look Inside the Nose and Throat

What causes nasopharyngeal cancer?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of nasopharyngeal cancer. They think the Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes mono Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) Infectious mononucleosis, often called mono, is a viral infection that is most common in teens and young adults. Mono is spread by close contact, such as kissing, with infected people Symptoms... read more ) plays a role. You’re more likely to get nasopharyngeal cancer if:

  • You have family members who’ve had nasopharyngeal cancer

  • Your diet has a lot of salted fish and foods with nitrates (such as hot dogs, sausage, and deli meat)

  • You're from southern China or southeast Asia

What are the symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer?

The first symptom of nasopharyngeal cancer is usually:

  • Lumps in your neck from the cancer spreading to your lymph nodes

Lymph nodes swell when your body has an infection or cancer. Swollen lymph nodes are sometimes called "swollen glands," but lymph nodes aren't really glands.

Other symptoms are:

  • Congestion and sometimes bleeding from one side of your nose

  • A feeling of fullness or pain in one ear

  • Hearing loss in one ear

  • Swelling in your face

How can doctors tell if I have nasopharyngeal cancer?

How do doctors treat nasopharyngeal cancer?

Nasopharyngeal cancer is more easily treated when caught early.

Doctors treat nasopharyngeal cancer with:

If the cancer comes back after this, doctors may do surgery.

Radiation to your nasopharynx may cause:

  • Loss of taste

  • Dry mouth

  • Trouble swallowing and speaking

  • Dental problems, if your teeth were exposed to radiation

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