What is Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma?
Nasopharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer. Based on Wikipedia, it is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the nasopharynx (hind-part) of the nose. The nasopharynx is the upper part of the pharynx (throat) behind the nose. The pharynx is a hollow tube about 5 inches long that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach). Air and food pass through the pharynx on the way to the trachea or the esophagus. The nostrils lead into the nasopharynx. An opening on each side of the nasopharynx leads into an ear. Nasopharyngeal cancer most commonly starts in the squamous cells that line the nasopharynx as indicated in the National Cancer Institute.
How to detect Nasopharyngeal Cancer?
Diagnosis for this disease can be a hard one to tell. I was diagnosed with this type of cancer and didn’t even know that I had it. I suffered from acute sinusitis and had to in-turn go to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who found a huge lump the size of a golf ball at the tip of my pharynx. I couldn’t feel any discomfort because my sinuses were so inflamed.
I have researched via cancer.gov, that there are also other symptoms that you can feel as well that may be a sign of this type of cancer. These and other symptoms may be caused by nasopharyngeal cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
- A lump in the nose or neck.
- A sore throat.
- Trouble breathing or speaking.
- Trouble hearing.
- Pain or ringing in the ear.
Tests to take to determine if you have Nasopharyngeal Cancer
There are a series of tests that you can take to determine if you have this type of cancer. If you are going to the doctor with sinus issues and they take X Rays of the areas of your sinuses, you can’t tell if you have cancer. An X Ray is only going to show limited areas of bone and tissue. It will not show the detail of your organs and what is wrong with them. It is best to go to a certified doctor, like an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor so they can examine you properly. Some of the tests that will determine any of your symptoms are:
- Physical exam of the throat: An exam in which the doctor feels for swollen lymph nodes in the neck and checks for anything else that seems unusual.
- Nasoscopy: A procedure to look inside the nose for abnormal areas.
- Neurological exam: A series of questions and tests to check the brain, spinal cord, and nerve function.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
- CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles.
- Laboratory tests: Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body.
- Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
I endured all of the above before, during and after my diagnosis. It was not the most comfortable thing to do but I knew that in order to save my life it was necessary.
Removal and recovery of Nasopharyngeal Cancer
So, it’s time to have your cancer removed. Don’t worry it’s not as bad as you think and it can be done as an in office procedure. Trust me I know. The cancer is removed through your nasal passages by your doctor or Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist. The procedure can usually range from 1-2 hours depending on the size of the tumor and if your doctor has to do any other work to your nasal passages. Afterwards, your nose will be sore and swollen, but nothing on the outside can tell you had massive surgery on the inside.
You will go into your doctor every two weeks for the first two months and he/she will remove the scabs left from healing after the surgery. They make sure you are numb on the inside so you don’t feel a thing.
My cancer was caught as a stage one cancer and I am so thankful. I had 7 weeks of radiation, which was not bad but it felt like forever. I endured first degree burns and still have some scars, which I call battle scars to remember what I had been through. But I would do it again if I had to. Depending on the size of your cancer will determine how long you will need to have radiation and or chemotherapy. Because mine was caught early I was fortunate to only have radiation.
Life after Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Life has been great for me and for others who have survived this cancer. You have to keep your wits about yourself and be thankful for those who are around you. A Great family/friend and or stranger support is always needed in situations like this. I never heard of this cancer until I was diagnosed with it myself. It is always good to do research to find out all you can once you are diagnosed. I didn’t have any symptoms that were listed when I found out I even had this cancer. If I didn’t have sinus issues, I would probably still have this cancer growing inside of me and that is a scary feeling.
Well, I hope this information helps someone else, family or friend out there with this disease. If you catch and treat it early your survival rate will increase. I myself, on the other hand will be celebrating being 5 years of being in remission this coming May!