What are the treatment options for nasopharyngeal cancer (nose cancer)?

by | Mar 30, 2021 | Ear, Nose & Throat

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Nose cancer treatment. If you have signs and symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer (nose cancer), your doctor may order a battery of tests. Common symptoms include a neck lump, hearing issues or blood in the mucus or phlegm. Some people may also choose to screen for nasopharyngeal cancer if they have a strong family history of the disease.

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Tests for nasopharyngeal cancer, nose cancer

Nasendoscopy A nasendoscope – a long, narrow, flexible tube with a camera –  is inserted through the nose. Your doctor will check for abnormal growths in the tissues at the back of the nose (the nasopharynx).
Biopsy A biopsy (tissue sample) from a nasendoscopy may be taken and examined for cancer cells.  A biopsy of a neck lump can also be done under local anaesthesia.

A nasopharynx biopsy is usually recommended over a neck biopsy. It is less invasive, and carries fewer risks of spreading the cancer to other parts of the body.

Blood test A blood test can detect antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is associated with nasopharyngeal cancer. A positive test for EBV antibodies means it is likely the patient has an EBV infection.

If nasopharyngeal cancer is confirmed, more tests will be done to check if the cancer has spread further. Tests may include a physical examination, blood tests, chest X-rays, and scans of the head and neck region, or the bones and liver.

Learn to recognise early symptoms of nose cancer

How is nasopharyngeal cancer treated?

The following treatments are recommended for nasopharyngeal cancer. A combination of treatments may be used.

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Radiation therapy Radiation therapy is the main treatment used for nasopharyngeal cancer, especially in the early stages. High-energy X-rays are focused on the areas around the nasopharynx, neck and collarbone to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is used in combination with radiation therapy, to enhance its effectiveness. Chemotherapy drugs are customised for a patient, to kill any remaining cancer cells after radiation therapy.
Surgery Surgery to remove the cancerous tumour may be recommended after the first recurrence. It can help treat the cancer, if it has not spread to other parts of the body.

As surgery techniques have advanced, surgery has become a more viable treatment option. For example, endoscopic nasopharyngectomy (ENPG) has been shown to improve the long-term survival outcomes of nasopharyngeal cancer patients.

This article has been verified medically by Dr Samuel Yeak, otorhinolaryngologist and ENT specialist at Amandela ENT Head and Neck Centre Singapore, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital (Singapore).

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