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Cancer Information

Head and Neck / Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Head and Neck / 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.

  • Family history of NPC
  • The Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), which has been found to be associated with NPC.
  • Consumption of preserved foods, such as salted fish, which has been found to be associated with NPC. 
  • A small group patients with dermatomyositis may also have a slightly higher risk of developing NPC.

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

  • Painless lump in the neck due to enlarged lymph node
  • Blood in saliva 
  • Hearing loss or blocked ear/ears which do not resolve
  • Blocked nose
  • Blood stained nasal discharge
  • Ringing sound in the ear 

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

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

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.

At the 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 Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) 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.

The Head and Neck Cancer / NPC Treatment Team at NCIS is spearheaded by Associate Professor Thomas Loh and he is accompanied by his team of medical professionals across the areas of surgical oncology, diagnostic imaging, pathology, haematology-oncology and radiation oncology.

The team is committed to delivering uncompromised and dedicated clinical research, expertise and care in the prevention, management and cure of Head and Neck Cancer / NPC.



Medical Oncology


Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery

Radiation Oncology