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Nasopharyngeal Cancer

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Nasopharyngeal Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer may include:

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Difficulty speaking, including hoarseness
  • Ear infections that keep coming back
  • Face pain or numbness
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss, ringing in the ears, or a feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Lump in neck or nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat

Keep in mind, such symptoms are more likely to occur with many other diseases and health conditions that are less serious than nasopharyngeal cancer.

If you have any of the above symptoms, see your doctor or nurse. Only an experienced medical person can diagnose or rule out nasopharyngeal cancer.

How Nasopharyngeal Cancer Is Diagnosed

Your doctor or nurse will examine you. This includes a detailed look at your ears, nose, and throat. You may be sent to a doctor that specializes in these areas, called an otolaryngologist.

The doctor or nurse will also feel your neck. Most patients with nasopharyngeal cancer have a lump in the neck. This is a sign that the cancer is spreading to the lymph nodes.

Small mirrors and lights or a flexible, lighted tube may be placed through your mouth or nose to help the doctor better view the nasopharynx. This is called a nasopharyngoscopy. It helps the doctor check the area for abnormal growths, bleeding, or other problems.

If the exam is abnormal, your doctor may recommend a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope.

A biopsy may be taken during the nasopharyngoscopy. If there is a lump in your neck, the biopsy may be done by  placing a very thin, hollow needle into the  lump.

Imaging tests can help spot nasopharyngeal cancer or determine if it has spread. Imaging tests may include:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound of the neck

The following tests may also be done to confirm or rule out cancer:

  • Complete blood count  (CBC) and other blood tests
  • EBV testing

If you are diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer, other tests will be done to determine if and where the cancer has spread. This is called staging.

There are four stages of nasopharyngeal cancer. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

  • Stage 1 is called early stage nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Stage 2 is called intermediate-stage nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Stages 3 and 4 are called advanced or late-stage nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • If nasopharyngeal cancer returns, it is called recurrent cancer.

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