Nasopharyngeal Cancer

About the condition

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the part of the throat (pharynx) connecting the back of the nose to the back of the mouth. Nasopharyngeal cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the pharynx become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the throat and move to other parts of the body.

Only about 240 people are diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer each year in the UK. Though the exact cause of nasopharyngeal cancer is unknown, a number of factors can increase the risk of developing the condition.

About three times as many men as women are affected by nasopharyngeal cancer and the average age at diagnosis is about 50.


It is often hard to recognise nasopharyngeal cancer because the symptoms are similar to other less serious conditions, and many people don’t show symptoms until the cancer has progressed to an advanced stage. Symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer can include:

  • a lump in the neck
  • hearing loss (usually only in one ear)
  • tinnitus (hearing sound from inside the body rather than from an outside source)
  • a blocked or stuffy nose
  • nosebleeds

If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for more than three weeks, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor. Alternatively you can book an appointment with one of our specialists by completing this form online or by calling 020 8247 3351.


If you’re referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on which tests are relevant to your individual symptoms. As nasopharyngeal cancer is rare, and the symptoms can indicate many other conditions, it is vital for the diagnosis to be as swift and as accurate as possible. Tests include:

  • An examination of the throat using a small mirror and a light
  • a Nasendoscopy, which is where a thin, flexible telescope (endoscope) is inserted up your nose and passed down your throat to look for any abnormalities
  • a Panendoscopy, which involves a more detailed examination of your nose and throat using a series of small telescopes
  • A Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan, a procedure that uses radio waves and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body
  • A Computerised Tomography scan, which shows a 3D image of the area being looked at
  • A biopsy, where cell samples are taken for examination for signs of cancer, which is usually done during a panendoscopy


At CCL patients are usually treated by a specialist multidisciplinary team. Due to the fact that it is difficult to access the affected area, surgery is not usually used to treat nasopharyngeal cancer. The main treatments for nasopharyngeal cancer are:

  • Radiotherapy, where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy, where chemical agents destroy the cancer cells preventing them from spreading to different areas.

Support Services

At CCL we provide support that caters to both the physical and emotional needs of the patient, before, during and after treatment. We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible. Our support services include counselling, group sessions and much more. You can find the full range of our support services here. We’ll be with you every step of the way.

Book now

If you have any questions about nasopharyngeal cancer or would like to book an appointment with one of our nasopharyngeal cancer specialists, complete this form online or call 020 8247 3351.


Cancer Centre London

Parkside Hospital

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