ENT Head & Neck Surgery Center

Rm 02, 5/F., Kai Seng Commerical Centre,
4-6 Hankow Road, TST Kln, HK
(near Kowloon Hotel)
Tel: (852) 3100 0555
Fax: (852) 3100 0556

Lawrence Chow / ENT Doctor

nasopharyngeal cancer

Nasopharyngeal Cancer: An Introduction to the Causes and Risk Factors

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a type of cancer that begins in cells in the nasopharynx. This is the area in the upper part of your throat and behind the nose. It is also known as NPC and is the most common type of head and neck cancer in Hong Kong. The cells will then start to grow into nearby lymph nodes in the rear of the mouth and continue to spread into other parts of the body.

Have you started to think about the causes of Nasopharyngeal cancer?

Have you asked yourself if there are risk factors for this disease?

Can Nasopharyngeal cancer be prevented?

If so, then read the following article.


Causes of Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Scientists are not sure what exactly causes nasopharyngeal cancer. However, the cancer has been strongly linked to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

Other risks are living or working in a region with an increased incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer, chronic sinusitis, prolonged exposure to nitrous oxide gas, and family history.


Risk Factors

The risk factors for nasopharyngeal cancer are not widely understood and very few studies have been done in this area. Consequently, we know that nasopharyngeal cancer is more common in rural areas and that it is associated with Epstein-Barr virus infection. The risk for nasopharyngeal cancer goes up if eating a diet rich in salt-cured fish and meat. It may also be associated with smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol although their link to the cancer is not clear. Some scientists believe that chemicals in these things further damage the DNA in cells.


Who is likely to get Nasopharyngeal cancer ?

  • those with nasopharyngeal cancer are men (about 80%) in general;
  • those who smoke or were exposed to second-hand smoke at a young age;
  • those who drink a lot of alcohol;
  • those with a family history of nasopharyngeal cancer;
  • those with a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS, or other diseases, or medical treatments such as chemotherapy or transplant;
  • those who have come in contact with EBV;
  • those exposed to certain chemicals, such as arsenic or phenol;
  • those who live in regions of China, Africa and South America.


Nasopharyngeal Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer may include:

  • Lump in neck
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Ear infections that recur
  • Face pain or numbness
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss, ringing in the ears, or a feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Difficulty opening mouth
  • Nosebleeds
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat

As such symptoms are commonly found with many other diseases, it is suggested to see your ENT doctor for further diagnosis when you see the above symptoms.

Did you find the information useful? If so, continue reading our posts.


For details of our ENT services, diagnosis, and treatment, please consult our ENT specialist.



HK ENT Specialist Ltd.

Hong Kong based ENT clinic centre

For ENT Services, Audiology & Speech Therapy,

Sleep Disordered Breathing Management,

Hearing Aid Prescription & Medical Cosmetic Services


5 Tips To Follow To Avoid Nasopharyngeal Cancer

We’ve talked about how certain types of foods or activities cause throat cancer and general types of cancer.


Nasopharyngeal cancer is one of the many types of cancer associated with the ENT (ears, nose, and throat). It’s also one of the rarest types and only occurs in 1 out of 100,000 individuals. The risk associated with developing nasopharyngeal cancer increases with age and can happen at any age.


Today, we’re going to list some of the things you can do to avoid nasopharyngeal cancer.


1.Quit smoking!

Although there have been no studies directly linking nasopharyngeal  cancer to tobacco use, quitting smoking has a lot of benefits. This also reduces your risk for other types of cancer that may develop complications or metastasize to different areas of your body, including the back of your throat.



2.Reduce alcohol intake.

There is a study that confirmed the role of alcohol in causing multitude types of cancer by direct physical contact alone. Alcohol coming into contact with epithelial cells increases their chances of mutating and spreading.


Since nasopharyngeal cancer is so rare, not much study has been focused on its relationship to alcohol intake. This does not mean alcohol is ruled out, as several studies have pointed out that alcohol certainly causes a lot of other types of cancers, of which its severity matches that of smoking.



3.Limit the consumption of cured meats.

Nasopharyngeal cancer has higher incidence rates in parts of the world where a staple of their diet includes cured meat or fish. Nasopharyngeal cancer affects more Chinese and individuals from South East Asia.


Studies in the UK also revealed that immigrants of Chinese descent still had the same probability of developing nasopharyngeal cancer, and have attributed the cause to cured or dried fish. Compounds called nitrates or nitrites which form during the curing process are known to have mutagenic effects on human cells.



4.Don’t neglect allergic rhinitis.

It turns out this harmless illness causing thousands of people unnecessary discomfort can increase one’s chances of developing nasopharyngeal cancer. A study conducted in Taiwan revealed that people who have had more than four visits to a clinic for their rhinitis complaints had more chances of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.


They determined the probable cause was due to chronic and repeated nasal inflammation that resulted in epithelial cells mutating and developing into cancerous types. Don’t forget to take your antihistamines!



5.Eating more fruits and vegetables.

We’ve heard of this so many times before and it’s become a cliche but it still holds true. By doing the exact opposite of what’s causing NPC, an individual has lesser chances of developing the disease.


The way it works is that a steady supply of much needed vitamins and minerals keep cells healthier. Cells only function at their best if the DNA is resistant to disintegration or mutation. Vegetables or fruits have the necessary compounds to maintain the structural integrity of the DNA, decreasing the chances of developing any type of cancer, NPC included.


Did you find the information useful? If so, continue reading our posts.


For details of the ENT services, diagnosis, and treatment, please consult our ENT specialist.




HK ENT Specialist Ltd.

Hong Kong based ENT clinic centre

For ENT Services, Audiology & Speech Therapy,

Sleep Disordered Breathing Management,

Hearing Aid Prescription & Medical Cosmetic Services


The Stages of Nasopharyngeal Cancer and Their Treatment Options

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: 


  • Chemoradiation, or chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy, aimed at the nasopharynx and affected lymph nodes. Cisplatin is the common drug used and it’s sometimes combined with another drug.


  • Chemotherapy comes next, usually a combination of cisplatin and 5-FU.


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.



HK ENT Specialist Ltd.

Hong Kong based ENT clinic centre

For ENT Services, Audiology & Speech Therapy,

Sleep Disordered Breathing Management,

Hearing Aid Prescription & Medical Cosmetic Services


Do You Have Nasopharyngeal Cancer? What is its Symptoms?

There are many types of cancer, and you may have nasopharyngeal cancer if malignant cancer cells develop in the tissues of your nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is the upper part of the throat located behind your nose.


Symptoms of Nasopharyngeal Cancer

If you have nasopharyngeal cancer, you may show the following symptoms:

  • A lump in the neck or nose
  • Difficulty breathing or speaking
  • Headaches
  • Hearing difficulties
  • Nosebleeds
  • Pain or ringing in the ear
  • Sore throat

It’s true that these symptoms may also be caused by other conditions. However, if these symptoms persist then you should see a ENT doctor especially if risk factors apply in your case.


Risk Factors for Nasopharyngeal Cancer

A risk factor is a condition which increases your chances of getting a disease. These risk factors increase the chances that you will develop nasopharyngeal cancer.

  • You’re Asian.
  • You drink large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis.
  • You’ve been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus.

If any of these risk factors are true in your case and you exhibit any of the symptoms, then the chances are greater those symptoms are due to nasopharyngeal cancer.


Procedures and Tools to Diagnose Nasopharyngeal Cancer

The doctor can examine your nose, throat, and other nearby organs to find out if you have nasopharyngeal cancer:

  • Physical exam and history. This will include checking for swollen lymph nodes.
  • Neurological exam. This checks the brain, spinal cord, and nerve function.
  • Biopsy. Cells or tissues are removed to check for signs of cancer under a microscope.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to create a series of highly detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
  • CT scan (CAT scan). This also creates a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, using a computer linked to an x-ray machine and injected dye to make the tissues and organs show up more clearly in the pictures.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan). This finds malignant tumor cells using injected radioactive glucose and a PET scanner creating a picture of where the glucose is in the body. The malignant tumor cells tend to appear brighter in the PET pictures.
  • Ultrasound exam. This procedure uses high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) to bounce off the organs in the abdomen. The resulting echoes can form a picture of the body tissues.
  • Chest x-ray. The x-ray focus on the organs and bones inside the chest.
  • Blood chemistry studies. A blood sample is taken to check for unusual amounts of certain substances.
  • Complete blood count (CBC). The blood sample is checked for number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets; the amount of hemoglobin (in the red blood cells; the percentage of red blood cells making up the total blood sample.
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) test. It checks for the presence of antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus, which would appear if you’ve been infected with EBV.
  • HPV test (human papillomavirus test). It checks if you have an HPV infection, as this can cause nasopharyngeal cancer.

Hearing test. Nasopharyngeal cancer can affect your hearing ability.



For details of the treatment, it is suggested to consult an ENT Specialist.



HK ENT Specialist Ltd.

Hong Kong based ENT clinic centre

For ENT Services, Audiology & Speech Therapy,

Sleep Disordered Breathing Management,

Hearing Aid Prescription & Medical Cosmetic Services


Radiation Therapy for Nasopharyngeal Cancer

When cancer cells form in the tissues of the nasopharynx (located in the upper part of the throat behind the nose), the condition is referred to as nasopharyngeal cancer. It is a type of head and neck cancer.

Among the signs of nasopharyngeal cancer include difficulties with hearing, talking, and breathing. The risk factors for the condition include having Asian ancestry, being exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus, and high consumption of alcohol. Doctors have to examine the nose, throat, and nearby organs to diagnose the disease and to determine its current stage.


Radiation therapy is one of the 3 standard treatment options for nasopharyngeal cancer. The other options are chemotherapy and surgery. In some cases, doctors may give chemotherapy after using radiation therapy, to kill off any remaining cancer cells.


There are 2 types of radiation therapy: external and internal.

External Radiation Therapy

In external radiation therapy, the doctors send radiation towards the cancer cells to kill them off, using a machine outside the body. It’s possible that external radiation therapy may change the way the thyroid gland works, if the therapy is applied to the pituitary gland or the thyroid. After the therapy, doctors can check that the thyroid gland is functioning properly. Before and after the therapy, the doctors can give a blood test to determine the thyroid hormone level in the patient’s blood. Some particular ways of providing radiation therapy can also target the cancer cells without doing damage to the adjacent healthy tissue. These include stereotactic radiation therapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).


Stereotactic Radiation Therapy

This may also be called stereotactic external-beam radiation therapy and stereotaxic radiation therapy.

The doctors attach a rigid head frame to the patient’s skull, to prevent the head from moving during the treatment. They then use a machine to aim the high-energy radiation straight to the tumor.

The total dose of the radiation isn’t given all at once. Instead, the radiation dose is divided into smaller doses, and they’re given over several days.


Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

This is a type of 3D radiation therapy. It uses a computer to create images of the shape and size of the tumor. Thin streams of radiation with varying strengths (intensities) are directed at the tumor, coming from many different angles. One of the benefits of IMRT is that it’s less likely to cause dry mouth in the patient.


Internal Radiation Therapy

This method involves applying the radiation directly into the cancer, or at least near the cancer. In general, the doctors use catheters wires, needles, and even seeds, to seal in deliver the radioactive substance to the cancer cells.


If you wonder if you suffer from nasopharyngeal cancer, it is suggested to consult an ENT Specialist for the appropriate ENT services as soon as possible. HK ENT Specialist Ltd. is a professional Hong Kong based ENT clinic centre to offer ENT Services. Please contact us for an appointment at 3100 0555.



HK ENT Specialist Ltd.

Hong Kong based ENT clinic centre

For ENT Services, Audiology & Speech Therapy,

Sleep Disordered Breathing Management,

Hearing Aid Prescription & Medical Cosmetic Services


Everything About Throat Cancer – Symptoms, Types, and Treatment

Everything About Throat Cancer – Symptoms, Types and Treatment


Throat cancer is a broad term that refers to all types of cancer occurring in the throat or pharynx, voice box or larynx, and the tonsils. In medical terminology, the throat begins at the very back of the nose and ends at the neck. Since the voice box is so near it is also regarded as a part of throat cancer.


Throat cancer may also affect the epiglottis, the flap of tissue sitting atop the larynx and functions to prevent food and liquids from entering the trachea. Throat cancer also affects the tonsils. Continue reading

Everything About Nasopharyngeal Cancer – Symptoms and Treatment

Everything About Nasopharyngeal Cancer – Symptoms and Treatment


The nasopharynx is the very beginning portion of the throat and is located right behind the nose. Nasopharyngeal cancer is one of the rarest forms of head and neck cancer and is also referred to as nasopharyngeal carcinoma or NPC.


To this date there is no direct reason why or how nasopharyngeal cancer occurs but scientists have linked its occurrence with the Epstein-Barr Virus or EBV. Just about everyone is infected with EBV but normally the immune systems help deal with this. It is when the infection gets out of control that scientists suspect nasopharyngeal cancer to arise. It is more prominent in males younger than 55 and is a higher risk for people who constantly consume alcohol and tobacco. Continue reading

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