Nasopharyngeal Cancer: Patient Education

Cancer Facts

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • Nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is fairly rare in most parts of the world. In North America, it occurs in about 7 in every 1 million people. In 2011, there were an estimated 2,750 cases in the United States.
  • This cancer is, however, much more common in certain parts of Asia and North Africa, particularly in Southeast China. It is also more common among Inuits of Alaska and Canada, and among some immigrant groups in the United States, such as recent Chinese and Hmong immigrants.

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a group of malignant cells that starts in the nasopharynx.

The nasopharynx is the upper part of your throat (pharynx) behind your nose. It’s boxlike, about an inch-and-a-half on each side.

It’s located right above the roof of your mouth (soft palate) and has opening to each of your ears.

The function of the nasopharynx is to allow air from your nose to your throat.

Type of Nasopharyngeal Cancer

The most common type of cancer affecting your nasopharynx is nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). NPC begins in the epithelial cells that line your nasopharynx.

Three Types of NPC

  • Keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma
  • Nonkeratinizing squamous cell carcinoma
  • Undifferentiated or poorly differentiated carcinoma

The type of NPC you have determines its seriousness and treatment.

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