Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a malignant tumour of the nasopharynx, which is the upper part of the throat behind the nose. It is more prevalence in Southeast Asia, Southern China and North African countries.

NPC is the fourth most common cancer among Malaysians. There are several risk factors associated with the disease including genetic (especially among the Chinese), Epstein-Barr virus infection, family history of NPC, tobacco smoking and consumption of salted fish.

NPC is usually diagnosed late because the symptoms are similar to other, less serious conditions. It commonly presents with painless neck lump, blood stained saliva or nasal secretion, and/or unilateral ear block. Unilateral headache, facial numbness and diplopia are seen in more advanced cases.

The management of NPC requires a multidisciplinary team to ensure optimum treatment planning. The mainstay of treatment is radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy. With advancement of radiotherapy and the current use of intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), there has been a significant reduction in the side effect of the radiation therapy.

Follow up is necessary to all patients with NPC to assess the response to treatment, managing the side effects or complications which may arise during the treatment, and to provide surveillance and early detection of recurrent disease.

Early diagnosis will lead to better outcome and prognosis, therefore improving the awareness about the disease and early presenting symptoms among the people and the caregiver is crucial for early detection and better quality of life for the patients.