Nasopharyngeal cancer refers to a disease in which there is the formation of malignant cells or cancer cells in the tissues of the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is one of the parts of the pharynx that is present behind your nose. The other two parts of pharynx are oropharynx and hypopharynx.
The pharynx is a tubular structure that is 5 inches long. Both air and food pass through the pharynx. Pharynx begins behind the nose and extends till the upper portion of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (food pipe). The squamous cells line the nasopharynx and, in this disease, the malignancy starts within these squamous cells. (1)
Can You Survive Nasopharyngeal Cancer & What Is Its Survival Rate?
Yes, you can survive nasopharyngeal cancer. The survival rate depends on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. The more advanced the stage is, the survival rate reduces accordingly. If the stage is the earliest then the survival rate is the highest. For staging of the cancer is done as per a system called a TNM staging system. Here the cancer is categorized into five stages. The stages of the cancer are stage 0, stage I, stage II, stage III and stage IV.
Stage 0- in this stage, the carcinoma has not spread to the lymph nodes and there is no distant metastasis meaning that the carcinoma remains in situ.
Stage I- in this stage, the carcinoma appears like a small tumor mass but there is no spread to the lymph nodes or any distant metastasis.
Stage II- in this stage, cancer has spread to the lymph nodes but there is no distant metastasis. The tumor mass is present in the nasopharynx only.
Stage III- in this stage, the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes that are present on both sides of the neck but there is no evidence of any distant metastasis. The tumor size is larger at this stage.
Stage IV- This stage is divided into two subcategories.
Stage IVA- here, the tumor is of an invasive kind and there might or might not be lymph node involvement but there is no distant metastasis. There may also be evidence of lymph node involvement that may be extensive and does not involve distant metastasis.
Stage IVB- in this stage, the tumor with distant metastasis is involved irrespective of lymph node involvement.
In general, the five-year survival rate of people who are diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer is 60%.
Five-year survival rate means the percentage of people who will be alive even after five years of diagnosing cancer.
As per the stage the survival rates are as follows:
Stage I- the five-year survival rate is found to be 72%
Stage II- the five-year survival rate is found to be 64%
Stage III- the five-year survival rate is found to be 62%
Stage IV- the five-year survival rate is found to be 38%
So as described, the survival rate keeps on reducing as the stage of the cancer advances. (2)
The exact cause of nasopharyngeal cancer is not yet known. Although, in the causation of nasopharyngeal cancer three factors are involved: viral, heredity and environmental factors. The virus cause for nasopharyngeal cancer is a virus named Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This is one of the most common viruses that take part in the causation of this cancer. This virus is present worldwide and almost every single person is exposed to this virus. But the chances of this virus causing nasopharyngeal cancer are very rare and unusual. Other factors that can lead to this cancer are genetic susceptibility and consuming salted fish that contain carcinogenic substances like nitrosamines. Eating salt-treated fish and meat can also increase the chances of EBV to cause nasopharyngeal cancer.
Another virus named human papillomavirus (HPV) is also said to be associated with the causation of nasopharyngeal cancer. When a study was conducted, the DNA of the Epstein-Barr virus was found in 96% of the blood plasma of the patients. A nuclear antigen was found that was associated with the Epstein-Barr virus and hence it was concluded that EBV has the potential to infect the epithelial cells and lead to the cancerous transformation of the cells. Although, development of nasopharyngeal cancer is a multiple-step process that involves all the other factors in the causation. (3)
In general, the five-year survival rate of people who are diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer is 60%. A five-year survival rate means the percentage of people who will be alive after cancer has been diagnosed. Also, the survival rate largely depends on the stage at which cancer has been diagnosed. The advanced the stage, the lesser is the survival rate.
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- What Is The Best Treatment For Nasopharyngeal Cancer?
- What Leads To Nasopharyngeal Cancer & Can It Be Cured?
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