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What Is The Prognosis For Nasopharyngeal Cancer?

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare cancer of the head and neck region. It is also called nasopharyngeal carcinoma. It develops in the nasopharynx (behind the nose and above the back of the throat). Its exact causes are not known. It may be caused by EBV infection, dietary habits, genetic inheritance, smoking and alcohol consumption. Its symptoms involve nasal congestion, nasal blockage, breathing difficulties, tinnitus, double vision and many more. It can be cured if treated in the early stages. Its prognosis is good in the early stages in which the patient can survive for 5 years or more. What Is The Prognosis For Nasopharyngeal Cancer?

What Is The Prognosis For Nasopharyngeal Cancer?

The prognosis of nasopharyngeal cancer depends on the following factors-

  • The age of the patient
  • The health status of the patient
  • Family history
  • Consumption of salted fish in the diet
  • Tobacco smoking
  • The size of the tumor(2)
  • The type of nasopharyngeal cancer(1)
  • The stage of cancer whether it is localized or spread to other parts of the body
  • Increased level of EBV antibodies and EBV-DNA markers in the blood before the start of treatment and after the end of treatment
  • The time duration between biopsy and beginning of the radiation therapy.(2)
  • The treatment selected for the patient(3)

It is very difficult to estimate the survival time for nasopharyngeal cancer patients. Only treating physician may estimate the correct survival time.(3) The average 5-year survival rate for nasopharyngeal cancer after diagnosis is 80 percent. However, it depends on the stage at which this cancer was detected.(4) According to statistics available from the American Cancer Society, the survival rates for nasopharyngeal cancer are noted in different stages in the study done in 1998-1999.(3)

  • Stage 1: The prognosis of the patient in stage 1 is excellent. More than 70 % of the patients survive 5 years or more after the diagnosis.
  • Stage 2: In stage 2, 65 % of patients live 5 years or more after diagnosis.
  • Stage 3: In stage 3, it was noted that 60 percent of patient survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis is made.
  • Stage 4: Nearly 40% of patients live 5 years or more after the diagnosis is established in Stage 4.(3)

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare cancer of nasopharynx that can affect any person at any age. It is also called nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The nasopharynx is the portion that connects the nose with the pharynx. It is located above the back of the throat just behind the nose. The tumors develop in this area. It cannot be seen. Its initial symptoms either do not appear or are similar to other conditions of this area.(5) The causes of nasopharyngeal cancer are not known. It is noted in certain studies that Epstein- Barr infection may lead to the variation in the DNA makeup of the cells present in the nasopharynx. Certain genetic inheritance of certain tissues may impact the immune system and cause nasopharyngeal cancer. The diet rich in salted fish or meat also increase the risk of developing this cancer. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and exposure to formaldehyde may also result in nasopharyngeal cancer.(6) Nasopharyngeal cancer affects males more than females. Its incidence is more common in people of South China or Southeast Asia.(6) Its symptoms involve swollen lymph nodes, bloody discharge from the nose, blood in the saliva, breathing difficulties, tinnitus, hearing loss, nasal blockage, double vision, numbness in the face, frequent ear infections, and sore throat.(6)


The prognosis of nasopharyngeal cancer is good. The patient survives 5 years or more in about 80 percent of cases. It depends on the age, health, and lifestyle of the patient. It also depends on the size of the tumor, the stage at which it is diagnosed and other factors mentioned above.


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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 4, 2021

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