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Head and Neck / Nasopharyngeal Cancer (NPC)


What is Nasopharyngeal Cancer?


Nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) begins at the junction of the back of the nose and the top of the throat (pharynx), an area called the nasopharynx. The cells lining the nasopharynx can become cancerous and give rise to nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) – a form of nose cancer. This usually happens when the cells behave abnormally and a cancerous lump is formed in the nasopharynx.


What are the risk factors?


  • Family history of NPC.
  • The Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), which has been found to be associated with NPC.
  • Consumption of salted foods, which has been found to be associated with NPC.

*People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.


What are the signs and symptoms?


  • Painless lump in the neck
  • Blocked nose
  • Nose bleeds
  • Ear blockage
  • Ringing sound in the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Blood in saliva


*A doctor should be consulted should the above symptoms occur.


What can you do to prevent Nasopharyngeal Cancer?

There is currently no firm way to prevent NPC. Family members of NPC patients may wish to be screened. 


How is Nasopharyngeal Cancer diagnosed?


If NPC is suspected, your doctor may suggest performing a nasal endoscopy. This involves inserting a thin flexible tube (with a camera mounted at one end) into your nasopharynx through your nose. A small tissue sample (biopsy) may also be removed for testing.


What are the treatment options?


At NCIS, our patients are managed by a team of cancer specialists and health professionals from various disciplines. From pathologists and radiologists to medical oncologists and surgeons, we believe that a multidisciplinary approach will give our patients comprehensive and holistic care. A treatment plan will be developed to fit each patient's needs and may include one or a combination of the following treatments:


Radiation Therapy
Radiation Therapy is commonly used to treat NPC cancer. NPC patients are usually treated with External Beam Radiotherapy (EBRT) which focuses high-energy radiation beams from outside the body on the cancer, killing the cancer cells in the process.


Chemotherapy is usually used as a supplementary treatment to radiation therapy and is either taken as a pill or through the vein. Two common ways in which it can be administered are:
- At the same time as radiotherapy: This can enhance the effectiveness of radiotherapy but the side effects of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be difficult to handle.
- After radiotherapy: This is used to kill any remaining cancer cells after radiotherapy.


Surgery is seldom used as the initial treatment for NPC. It can be considered as an option when the cancer recurs after treatment and the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.


Support Group


NPC One Heart is a voluntary support group formed to reach out to NPC and Head and Neck cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. The group is open to everyone regardless of which hospitals each person is from and all are welcome. It aims to provide knowledge, psychological and emotional support to NPC and Head and Neck cancer patients and caregivers through organised activities, talks, care and sharing of experiences and practices. For more information, visit the group's page here.



Download a soft copy of the Nasopharyngeal Cancer in English

Download a soft copy of the Nasopharyngeal Cancer in Chinese



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