Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more

Treatment options for nasopharyngeal cancer may depend on the location of the cancer, how fast it is growing, whether it has spread to other areas, and the patient’s preferences and overall health.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves using high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. Nasopharyngeal cancer is particularly sensitive to radiation, so it is often the first treatment for the disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The Mayo Clinic explains that external beam radiation, the most common type of treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer, uses a machine outside the body to direct radiation to specific areas. Another type of radiation therapy, called brachytherapy, is sometimes an option to treat recurrence of nasopharyngeal cancer. For this type, radioactive seeds or wires are placed inside or near the tumor.


Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells in the body. These medications can be given through a vein in the arm or taken in pill form. Patients with nasopharyngeal cancer may receive chemotherapy before, after, or concurrently with radiation therapy.


When chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used together, it is called chemoradiotherapy. When chemotherapy is used with radiation therapy, it often increases the effectiveness of the treatment, but may also cause more side effects.


In general, surgery is not considered the first choice of treatment for patients with nasopharyngeal cancer. The nasopharynx is a difficult site to operate on because of its difficulty in reaching and its proximity to cranial nerves and blood vessels.

However, in some cases, some tumors can be removed surgically. Additionally, doctors may perform surgery to remove affected lymph nodes in the neck.

Targeted therapy

Targeted drugs work by targeting specific proteins that control cancer cell growth. The American Cancer Society says some patients with nasopharyngeal cancer may benefit from injectable targeted therapy cetuximab. Targeted therapy is often combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. Certain types of immunotherapy, called checkpoint inhibitors, may be used in some patients with advanced or recurrent nasopharyngeal cancer.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that provide patients with the opportunity to try new treatments that are not yet available to the public. Some patients with nasopharyngeal cancer choose to participate in clinical trials to obtain new treatments.

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