What Is Nasopharyngeal Cancer?
Nasopharyngeal cancer is the cancer occurring in our nasopharynx, an organ situated behind our nose, above our throat's back. People of United States rarely develop this disease. The disease is more prevalent among natives of Northern Africa and Asia.
Why does one suffer from nasopharyngeal cancer? Nasopharyngeal cancer occurs when genetic mutations result in overgrowth of normal cells. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a cancer type marked by abnormal growth of squamous cells forming the lining of the nasopharynx. Till date, no study has successfully found out the exact factor responsible for triggering these genetic mutations. However, scientists have found evidences supporting the fact that a virus called Epstein-Barr can increase one's risk of developing nasopharyngeal carcinoma. But, being infected by this virus does not mean that the person will inevitably become a victim of nasopharyngeal cancer.
As the disease does not cause any significant symptom in its early stages, detecting nasopharyngeal cancer early is often not possible. Besides that early diagnosis of nasopharyngeal cancer also becomes almost impossible due to the location of the organ nasopharynx, which makes examining the organ difficult. Besides that, certain symptoms of the disease mimic other physical conditions that are not so severe. The symptoms commonly experiences by patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma are:
- Appearance of a lump or mass in the neck due to enlargement of a lymph node
- Hearing loss
- Persistent nasal congestion
- Bloody expulsion from the nose
- Blood in saliva
- Recurrent ear infections
What are the complications caused by nasopharyngeal cancer? This cancer type is metastasizing in nature; it quickly invades body parts beyond the patient's nasopharynx. Majority of the patients diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma experience regional metastases; this means the cancer cells of initial nasopharyngeal tumor migrate to the nearby regions like the lymph nodes of the neck. In case of distant metastases i.e. spreading of the cancer cells to distant tissues and organs of the patient's bodies, liver, lungs, bone marrow and bones are most likely to get affected. Nasopharyngeal cancer can result in occurrence of paraneoplastic syndromes. Paraneoplastic syndromes are rare disorders marked by reaction of the immune system of our body towards cancers by attacking the normal cells. In such cases, after the completion of the cancer treatment, your doctor might ask you to take medications for controlling the immune system.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is generally treated using the following procedures:
- Radiation therapy
- Chemotherapy (it might be applied before or after radiation therapy or even in conjunction with radiation therapy)
- Surgery (surgery is rarely recommended to patients with nasopharyngeal cancer)