Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a rare tumor arising from the epithelium of the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is the upper portion of the pharynx — a 5-inch tube that extends from behind the nose to the top of the windpipe and esophagus in your neck. It is a poorly differentiated carcinoma that may appear at any site in the upper respiratory tract, but most commonly, in the lateral wall of the nasopharynx around the ostium of the Eustachian tube – the fossa of Rosenmuller. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma may occur at any age and as presented above, occurs much more frequently in the Chinese population. The incidence of second primary malignancy in patients with NPC appears to be less than that of other head and neck cancers, which are usually related to smoking. The nasopharynx has a cuboidal shape. The lateral walls are formed by the eustachian tube and the fossa of Rosenmuller. Men are more likely than women to develop nasopharyngeal carcinoma. It’s most commonly diagnosed in people from age 30 to age 60, though nasopharyngeal carcinoma can also occur in older adults and in children. In Taiwan, nasopharyngeal carcinoma accounts for about 5% of all cancers and 56% of all head and neck cancers.

In the pediatric population, most nasopharyngeal malignancies are rhabdomyosarcomas or lymphomas. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma rarely comes to medical attention before it has spread to regional lymph nodes. It may be associated with the Epstein-Barr virus, with exposure to smoke or to chemical pollutants, and in California and Malaysia, to the ingestion of salted fish. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma causes signs and symptoms that may suggest a variety of diseases and conditions. That fact, combined with the hidden location of the nasopharynx, means most people aren’t diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma until the cancer has spread. All NPCs are associated with EBV-latent gene products, unlike other head and neck carcinomas. About 80% of NPCs overexpress the BCL2 product. These findings are consistent and may contribute to the development of NPC by inhibiting apoptosis. Symptoms and signs at presentation include painless, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, nasal obstruction, epistaxis, diminished hearing, tinnitus, recurrent otitis media, cranial nerve dysfunction, sore throat, and headache. Unlike other cancers of the head and neck region where surgery is preferred, early stage NPC is mainly treated with radiotherapy.

Causes of Nasopharyngeal carcinoma

The common causes and risk factor’s of Nasopharyngeal carcinoma include the following:

Epstein-Barr virus.

Preserved meats.

Chinese or Asian ancestry.

Contact with moisture from the mouth and throat of a person who is infected with the virus.


High alcohol consumption.

Salt-cured foods.

Having a family member with nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

Symptoms of Nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Some sign and symptoms related to Nasopharyngeal carcinoma are as follows:

Neck swelling.

Hearing loss in one ear.


Nasal symptoms, including bleeding, obstruction, and discharge.

A sore throat.

Deafness and tinnitus.

Double vision.

A lump in the neck caused by a swollen lymph node.

Treatment of Nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Here is list of the methods for treating Nasopharyngeal carcinoma:

Radiotherapy is the primary treatment modality for carcinoma of the nasopharynx.

Chemotherapy may be used to treat nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

Surgery is usually reserved for recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes in the neck is the most common surgery for nasopharyngeal carcinoma.