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Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Nasopharyngeal cancer occurs in the nasopharynx, the area located behind the nose and above the back of the throat.

It is a very rare cancer. For every 100,000 people, there is one case of nasopharyngeal cancer.


Nasopharyngeal cancer is difficult to detect early. The nasopharnyx is not easily examined and symptoms of nasopharyngeal carcinoma are similar to those of other more common conditions, such as a cold. 

In its early stages, it may not cause any symptoms at all.

As it advances, some people with nasopharyngeal carcinoma may experience:

Risk factors

There are several factors that can increase your risk of nasopharyngeal cancer:

  • Ethnicity. It more commonly affects people in Southeast Asia and northern Africa.
  • Epstein-Barr virus. Although it usually only causes a mild viral infection with cold-like symptoms, Epstein-Barr has also been linked to rare cancers such as nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Genetics. Having a family member with nasopharyngeal cancer increases your risk of the disease.
  • Being male. It is most commonly seen in men.
  • Age. The condition is most commonly diagnosed in adults between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Smoked foods. Exposure to the steam when cooking smoked fish or vegetables can get into the nasopharynx.


We offer the latest, state-of-the-art diagnostic and imaging technology. Combined with our patient-centered approach to diagnosis and treatment, this allows us to offer the most effective and comprehensive head and neck treatment in Orange County.

When considering the possibility of nasopharygeal cancer as a diagnosis, there are several steps that are taken to ensure an accurate diagnosis is made:

  • Medical history. The process of forming a diagnosis always begins with a thorough and candid discussion between patient and doctor to create your medical history.
  • Physical examination. A detailed and targeted physical examination of the head and neck will start with a visual inspection. Checking for swollen lymph nodes in the neck and inspecting the throat with a small, long-handed mirror can also help in forming a diagnosis.
  • Visual examination. An endoscopy may be performed to get a visual of the entire oral cavity and nasopharynx. This is done by inserting a very thin, lighted tube through the nose or mouth and into the nasopharynx. Tissue samples for biopsy may be taken at this time as well.
  • Imaging studies. In order to obtain a more detailed view of the head and neck, X-Rays, an MRI, and CT/PET scans, may be ordered to confirm or rule out the diagnosis of nasopharyngeal cancer.


Once the diagnosis of nasopharyngeal cancer is made, we will discuss and review a personalized treatment plan for you.

Your course of treatment depends on the severity and extent of the cancer, your overall health and other factors unique to you.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is used to target and kill cancer cells through high-energy rays and beams. You will be positioned on a table as the radiation machine targets and applies its beams to the exact location of your cancer.

Depending on the extent and severity of your nasopharyngeal cancer, radiation therapy may be used as solo treatment or combined with other forms of treatment such as chemotherapy and/or surgery. It is considered a key component of treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer because this cancer type tends to be very sensitive to radiation.

We use the latest, most advanced forms of radiation treatment, including intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). IMRT is a very specific, computer-driven radiation therapy technique that allows for more accurate therapy, limiting radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.


Chemotherapy is used to stop the growth of cancer cells by killing them through the use of anti-cancer drugs.

The anti-cancer agents are given orally or intravenously (IV) as a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.

Chemotherapy is often given in three to four week cycles, followed by a recovery period. For more advanced stages of nasopharyngeal cancer, chemotherapy is administered along with radiation to make cancer cells more sensitive to the radiation therapy, a treatment known as chemoradiation.


Surgical removal of a tumor in the nasopharynx is reserved for cases that do not respond to radiation or chemotherapy.

Nasopharynx surgery is very difficult and requires a high level of skill. Our experienced head and neck surgeons are trained in the latest endoscopic surgical techniques, which utilize flexible fiber-optic scopes and thin surgical instruments to access the nasopharynx for removal of the tumor.

If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, which is commonly seen in nasopharyngeal cancer, then a surgical procedure called neck dissection can remove these affected lymph nodes.

For more information about our services, please call us at 714-456-7017 or request an appointment online ›

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