Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a malign tumour in the nasopharynx, a passage that connects the rear part of the nose to the throat. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a rare disease where the malign tumour develops in the nasopharynx.

This type of cancer usually occurs in persons between 50 and 60. It is more frequent in Chinese.



The symptoms of nasopharyngeal carcinoma occur when the tumour spreads to the lymph nodes, when a painless swelling occurs in the neck. If symptoms develop, they include:

  • pain and swelling in the face
  • Earache and loss of hearing
  • losing the sense of smell
  • repeated nose bleeding
  • blocked nose or runny nose, usually from one nostril, even blood discharge
  • discomfort during swallowing
  • blood in the saliva
  • repeated inflammation of sinuses

This type of cancer may not give symptoms in the early stage of the disease.

If untreated, the cancer may spread, when the voice becomes hoarse, and paralysis may occur on one part of the face.



The exact cause of the nasopharyngeal carcinoma is unknown. Genetic factor may be a cause, as well as certain chemical substances in the foodstuffs such as salted fish and fermented food. This type of cancer is mostly associated with the Epstein-Barr virus.


Risk factors

The risk factors for nasopharyngeal carcinoma are:

  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Smoking and inhaling tobacco
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • inhale of certain dust, for e.g. from wood, nickel
  • race – more common in Chinese
  • gender – more common in men
  • age – adults between 30 and 50
  • family history



Complications of nasopharyngeal carcinoma arise if the cancer spreads, i.e. metastases to the surrounding structures, such as the throat, bones and brain. It can metastasize to more distant areas, such as the bones, liver, and lungs.



Prevention of nasopharyngeal carcinoma may not be possible. However, certain measures can be taken if one manages to eliminate the risk factors that increase the possibility of developing it. Those are: avoid eating salt-cured food, quit smoking, check if Epstein-Barr virus is present in the organism, screen the nasopharyngeal area.