Nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) can be cured but, as with all types of cancer, early detection and treatment are key to excellent prognosis. The types of treatment will vary depending on the stage of cancer; stage refers to the extent of cancer in the affected area and its spread to the surrounding areas. Emphasis must also be made that oncologists typically treat NPC in children and adults in nearly the same manner.
If you have NPC, you and your ENT doctor will discuss the best treatment protocol for your case. Your treatment protocol will likely be unique because your age, physical condition and medical history, among other factors, will be considered.
For Stages 0 and I
At these stages, the cancerous cells haven’t metastasized or spread to the lymph nodes. The typical treatment for Stages 0 and I is radiation therapy specifically targeting the tumor.
But even as the cancer hasn’t spread to the healthy lymph nodes around it, these lymph nodes in the neck will likely be subjected to radiation therapy. Known as preventive radiation, it’s necessary to remove undetected cancer cells in the lymph nodes. Otherwise, these cancer cells can grow and spread to the surrounding tissues.
For Stages II, III, IVA, and IVB
At these stages, the tumor cells have spread beyond the nasopharynx possibly in the lymph nodes either above the collarbone or in the neck. This means more aggressive treatments to kill the cancer cells while, hopefully, keeping the surrounding healthy tissues as healthy as possible.
The typical treatment protocol at these stages include:
Unfortunately, chemoradiation and chemotherapy may kill the cancer cells but these are aggressive treatments with side effects. You should discuss these side effects with your ENT doctor as there are interventions to decrease their impact on your quality of life.
Your ENT doctor may also consider other treatment protocols. These include induction chemotherapy and chemoradiation in tandem, immunotherapy either on its own or with chemotherapy, or chemoradiation after the chemotherapy with cisplatin and 5-FU.
If deemed necessary, you may also undergo surgery to remove the affected lymph nodes after these treatments have been performed.
For Stage IVC
With Stage IVC NPC, the cancer can be harder to treat. The treatment protocol will depend on your doctor’s professional judgment, but it can be a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy.
Cancer in any form isn’t easy but with modern medical treatments and technology, there’s hope for a remission. It’s vital to know your treatment options, discuss them with your doctor, and adopt healthy lifestyle habits – the healthier you are even with cancer, the better your prognosis.
For more details of diagnosing nasopharyngeal cancer and their treatment, please consult our ENT doctor.
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