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 uses X-rays to kill cancer cells and stop them from growing. It is usually part of 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:
Surgery. Surgery can sometimes 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 (Avastin), blocks production of a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) . Sorafenib (Nexavar), and pazopanib (Votrient) are drugs that also block this protein. 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 used. This includes the drug cetuximab (Erbitux), which targets a protein on the cancer cell’s surface. Other drugs that target this protein, including nimotuzumab and icotinib, have shown promising results in clinical trials.
. 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.