Nasopharyngeal cancer develops in the nasopharynx - located at the base of your skull and right above the back of your throat. Although a rare type, nasopharyngeal cancer is hard to detect due to the positioning of the nasopharynx. Moreover, the symptoms are similar to those of other common health conditions. Nevertheless, this form of cancer can be cured if detected early.
An oncologist will suggest treatment options depending on the stage of cancer – how far the disease has spread beyond the nasopharynx.
Below are the treatment options, based on the stage of nasopharyngeal cancer –
Stages 0 and 1
In these stages, the cancer is confined to the nasopharynx.
The usual treatment for early-stage cancer is radiation therapy. The doctor directs high-energy X-ray beams to destroy cancerous tumours in the cells, which may otherwise cause the lymph nodes to become enlarged.
Stages II, III, IV A and IV B
In these stages, cancer extends beyond the site of origin to other parts, including the lymph nodes in the neck or above the collarbone.
The doctor will recommend chemo-radiation therapy to patients who have been diagnosed with cancer in these stages. Radiation therapy along with chemotherapy is directed towards the nasopharynx and the lymph nodes in your neck. The doctor may administer the chemo drug combined with some other drug, depending on the severity of the condition and your overall health.
In case the previously mentioned treatment methods fail to eliminate cancer from the lymph nodes completely, surgery may be needed. Surgery or neck dissection is done to remove the lymph nodes from both sides of the neck, depending on the tumour’s location.
A partial neck dissection is performed to only remove the lymph nodes that are located nearest to the tumour.
A modified radical neck dissection eliminates lymph nodes on just one side of your neck between the collarbone and jawbone, as well as nerve tissues and a few muscles.
A comprehensive neck dissection is done to remove all the surrounding lymph nodes on one side along with several nerves, veins, and muscles.
Stage IV C
This is the end-stage of cancer where the tumour has spread to body parts and organs beyond the lymph nodes. Although the doctor will recommend the same line of treatment, usually after the chemo-radiation therapy or surgery, the results may not be favourable.
Nasopharyngeal cancer can be recurrent. Therefore, it is important that you go for a check-up early after encountering the symptoms of the disease. The earlier the cancer is detected, higher are the chances of a successful cure.