Nasopharyngeal Cancer Treatment
If you are diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer, you will need regular follow-ups with your medical team before, during, and after treatment.
Your treatment will depend on many things, including:
- Location of the tumor
- Stage of the tumor
- Your overall health
Treatment may include:
Radiation Therapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays to kill cancer cells and stop them from growing. It is the standard treatment for early stage nasopharyngeal cancer.
One type called IMRT delivers high-dose radiation directly to the tumor, while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissue. It may cause fewer side effects or complications than conventional radiation treatment to the nasopharynx, which can lead to:
- dry mouth
- inflammation of the lining of your mouth and throat
- brain stem injury
- death of healthy tissue
Surgery. Surgery can cure nasopharyngeal cancer if all of the tumor and cancer cells are removed. But the surgery can be difficult because of the tumor's location near the skull. It may cause permanent damage to the eye and other nearby structures.
Not all people with nasopharyngeal cancer can have surgery. Your doctor will consider the location and stage of your tumor when discussing your treatment options.
Biologic drugs. Biologic drugs affect how your body's immune system fights disease. They are also called monoclonal antibodies.
A biologic drug called Bevacizumab blocks production of a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Studies show that patients with nasopharyngeal cancer who have lower levels of VEGF are more likely to remain disease-free after treatment. Bevacizumab is currently being evaluated to see if it will help improve your overall survival when combined with other treatments, such as chemotherapy. Other biologic drugs are also under investigation and have shown promising results in clinical trials.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. By itself, it is not usually helpful for treating nasopharyngeal cancer. But it may help you live longer when combined with radiotherapy or biological drugs.
Palliative therapy. At this time, there is no cure for head and neck cancer that has spread, or metastasized. The goal of treatment is to control your symptoms and make you as comfortable as possible. This is called palliative therapy.
Clinical trials. If treatment does not work, consider joining a clinical trial. Researchers are always testing new ways to treat cancer, and they need your help. Ask your doctor or nurse if there are any clinical trials on nasopharyngeal cancer in your area.