Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the part of the throat connecting the back of the nose to the back of the mouth (the pharynx). In the UK, only about 240 people are diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer each year.
Nasopharyngeal cancer shouldn't be confused with other types of cancer that also affect the throat, such as laryngeal (larynx) cancer and oesophageal cancer.
The exact cause of nasopharyngeal cancer is unknown, but a number of factors can increase your risk of developing the condition. These include:
- being of far Eastern or north African descent
- having a diet very high in salt-cured meats and fish
- being exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common virus that causes glandular fever
- having a first-degree relative, such as a parent, who has had the condition
About three times as many men as women are affected by nasopharyngeal cancer, and the average age at diagnosis is about 50.
The outlook for nasopharyngeal cancer depends on your age, general health and how advanced the condition is when you're diagnosed.
Radiotherapy alone can cure many very early-stage nasopharyngeal cancers, but many cases are diagnosed at a more advanced stage as the condition doesn't always cause obvious symptoms until later on.
More advanced cancers are treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. They're often curable if the cancer hasn't spread beyond the head and neck region.