Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of throat cancer. It starts in the upper part of the throat behind your nose and just above the roof of your mouth (called the nasopharynx). Both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors can grow in your nasopharynx.
The most common type of nasopharyngeal cancer is called nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which starts in the cells that line your nasopharynx.
Many people with nasopharyngeal cancer don’t have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- A lump or swelling in your neck
- Trouble breathing through your nose
- Headaches that don’t go away
- Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
- Hearing issues, particularly in one ear
- Face pain
- Feeling like your ears are “stuffed up” or full
Radiation therapy is the most common treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer. Depending on the size of your tumor, and where it is in your body, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy in addition to radiation therapy.
If your cancer comes back after radiation and chemotherapy, surgery is usually the next treatment.
The exact cause of nasopharyngeal cancer is unknown, but things that can increase your risk include:
- Being aged 50-60
- Being male
- Being from, or having ancestors from, southern China, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, northern Africa, or Greenland
- Having the Epstein-Barr virus in the past
- Eating a lot of salt-cured meats and fish, especially if you make them yourself
- Infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Having a family member with nasopharyngeal cancer