Nasopharyngeal Cancer, also known as Nasopharyngeal carcinoma ( NPC ), occurs in the nasopharynx. This nasopharynx is a small, tubular like structure connecting the nose to the oropharynx. Precisely, It is seen behind the nose and above the back of the throat. It is most prevalent in the regions of east and southeast Asia.
What is Nasopharyngeal Cancer?
It is a rare type of cancer occurring in the head and neck. Infection begins in the upper part of the throat. That is, the nasopharynx at the base of the skull is affected by this type of cancer.
The most common cause of Nasopharyngeal Cancer is the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). EBV’s presence is common among people. Not all people who have this EBV get affected by this Nasopharyngeal Cancer.
Scientists suggest that the root of the cause is the genetic material of the virus. This affects human DNA in the cells of the nasopharynx. Such a sudden change in the DNA of the cells causes them to grow in an uncontrollable manner. It is thereby causing cancer eventually.
Also, food rich in salt-cured fish and meat causes a high risk for developing NPC. Scientists also suspect that the chemicals in tobacco and alcohol also can increase the risk of NPC.
Areas that get easily affected.
The American Cancer Society claims that they have fewer numbers of NPC cancer patients than others. But, the African-Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. are greatly susceptible to develop NPC.
It is most commonly viable in the southern part of China and Southeast Asia. We can also see its presence in some parts of Asia, North Africa, Inuit populations of Alaska and Canada. It is even seen in Chinese and Hmong immigrant groups in the U.S.
Who is prone to NPC?
The male gender is easily prone to this NPC. Further, people taking a diet that is rich in salt-cured fish and meats or having a family history of Nasopharyngeal Cancer are easily susceptible. Coming in direct contact with the EBV virus poses a great threat.
Also, people who smoke or drink a lot are also susceptible to develop Nasopharyngeal Cancer. Working around with wood dust or a chemical called formaldehyde gives a higher risk in developing the NPC.
Nasopharyngeal Cancer has five stages, namely, from the earliest Stage to the most advanced Stage. The earliest Stage is Stage 0. We also call it carcinoma in situ. The First Stage, or Stage I, is the early Stage of cancer. Here, there is no regional or distant spread.
In Stage II, we can see regional spread in nearby tissues or lymph nodes. There are no traces of distant spread in this Stage. In Stage III and stage IV, the tumor size is so big and advanced. There are traces of both regional and distant invasion in distant parts of the body. If cancer returns again, we call it recurrent cancer.
This Nasopharyngeal Cancer has many symptoms like the development of lumps commonly in the neck region, nasal congestions, and recurring ear infections. Blurry vision, face pain, numbness in the face, headache are also some commonly viable symptoms.
Also, Hearing loss, ringing in the ears, a feeling of fullness in the ear are common symptoms. Difficulty in opening the mouth, Nosebleeds, Stuffy nose, and Sore throat are some other symptoms.
One big complication due to the development of Nasopharyngeal Cancer is that it grows and invades into nearby structures. This is the advanced Stage. Here, the structures grow and invade the throat, bones, and brain.
One other complication is the invasion of this cancer into other areas of the body. It is a usual condition where this Nasopharyngeal cancer mostly spreads and metastasizes beyond the nasopharynx.
The most common regional metastases infections spread in nearby areas such as the lymph nodes. In the case of distant metastases, the cancer cells invade other areas of the body. We can see the invasion in areas such as the bones, lungs, and liver.
Diagnosis of Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Initially, with the symptoms developed, a person is suspected of Nasopharyngeal Cancer. Next, an otolaryngologist does a detailed examination of the ears, nose, and throat.
When confirmed, they look for lumps in the neck to verify the signs of spreading in the neck. Then, They do a nasopharyngoscopy because we can get a better view of the mouth or nose for signs of abnormal growths and bleeding.
They take a biopsy in abnormal cases. Here, the doctors take a small amount of tissue and take it for examination under a microscope. To determine the spread range, they prefer some imaging tests. They include chest Chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and Ultrasound of the neck are also done.
Different methods of treatment are available for this Nasopharyngeal Cancer. This treatment depends on the location of the tumor, Stage of the tumor, and Your overall health. The treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or even clinical trials.
This type of therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells and their growth. For early-stage Nasopharyngeal Cancer, we prefer this standard treatment. The type of IMRT therapy causes less side effects than the conventional ones.
Its side effects include dry mouth, inflammation of the lining of your mouth and throat, and even blindness. Death from healthy tissue is much common in these therapies. It can even lead to brain stem injury and tooth decay.
It is the usage of drugs to kill cancer cells. Though it is much less effective, it gives a longer life to the patient. But, in the case of recurrent cancer, biological drugs work differently than chemotherapeutic drugs. These biologic drugs include some monoclonal antibodies and affect the way how the immune system fights.
If none of the treatment works, clinical trials can be an idea. As there are new ways to treat cancer, let’s be a hope to the researchers.
Preventing the Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Though it is difficult to prevent the occurrence of Nasopharyngeal Cancer, we can follow some steps to reduce the risk. Avoid smoking and drinking. Restricted intake of salt-cured fish and meats are helpful in reducing the risk.