The nasopharynx is located in the centre of the head, between the nostrils and the top of the uvula. It is connected to the nasal cavity and sinuses above and the mouth below. Nasopharyngeal cancer is a malignant tumor that occurs in the nasopharynx. It is one of the commonest cancers in Hong Kong, with about 900 new cases each year. The incidence rate in males is three times higher than in females, and the peak age of onset is 50 to 60 years old. The number of nasopharyngeal cancer patients in Hong Kong and southern China is also higher than that in other parts of the world.
The causes of nasopharyngeal carcinoma are still unclear, but there are four major risk factors: genetics, diet, lifestyle, and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). In terms of genetics, immediate family related by blood (parents, siblings, children) of patients who have nasopharyngeal cancer has a higher risk of the disease. For food, long-term consumption of processed and pickled foods may also increase the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer. Smokers are also more likely to develop nasopharyngeal carcinoma. EBV infection can produce symptoms similar to a mild cold, making it difficult to detect. Since most nasopharyngeal cancer patients have EBV antibodies in their blood, abnormal levels of EBV antibodies in the blood mean that it is necessary to conduct further examination to diagnose nasopharyngeal cancer.
Early-stage nasopharyngeal cancer usually has no obvious symptoms and is difficult to detect. However, as the tumor grows and spreads to surrounding tissues, it can lead to symptoms such as nasal congestion, nosebleeds, coughing up blood, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, hoarseness, and difficulty swallowing. The nasopharyngeal cancer screening program can detect the disease early in high-risk individuals before any symptoms appear, facilitating appropriate treatment. Therefore, high-risk individuals should undergo regular screening tests to protect their health.
The above information is for reference only. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.