Nasopharyngeal cancer and other head and neck cancer show an extensive ethnic difference in varied parts of the world. Nasopharyngeal cancer, also known as nasopharyngeal carcinoma, is a rare malignant tumor that develops in the epithelium of the nasopharynx (upper part of the throat). The incidence of the disease is commonly seen in countries nearby Southern China like Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Malaysia. However, this disease is rarely noticed in North America and Western Europe.
Who Is At Risk For Nasopharyngeal Cancer?
A risk factor is typically defined as something that increases the risk of developing cancer. The determinants may be due to ethnicity, genetics or other common conditions. Also, age plays a vital role in this type of cancer. Male participants who are older than 50 have more chances of developing Nasopharyngeal cancer.
The most common risk factors for nasopharyngeal cancer will be discussed here:
The Epstein Barr Virus- This is a common type of herpes virus and one of the most common viruses affecting more than 90% of humans in the world. Most of the EPV infections are less severe. However, some of the infections are associated with multiple types of nasopharyngeal cancer and their closest association is seen in undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Although the study with regard to the association of EPV with nasopharyngeal cancer is still not clear, the virus in the tumor cells continues to provide insight about its carcinogenic effects
Eating Habits- Higher consumption of preserved and fermented food, especially childhood exposure to salt-cured fish is regarded as a leading factor for causing this condition. The chemical nitrosamines released from the salted foods and preservatives possess increased risk in the development of nasopharyngeal cancer
Genetic Factors- Nasopharyngeal cancer has multifactorial etiology and many risks associated with genetics. Like other types of diseases, nasopharyngeal cancer is inherited through families.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – The HPV has been detected in almost 73% of patients and it implicates in the rising incidence of this condition. Although Japan is non-epidemic with nasopharyngeal cancer, studies show that not only EBV rather HPV is a contributing factor that has an influence on nasopharyngeal cancer in non-epidemic areas.
Smoking Habits- Tobacco in cigarettes causes head and neck cancers but casual smoking is not related to nasopharyngeal carcinoma. However, the largest community of nasopharyngeal cancer patients showed increased mortality rates when they could not quit smoking. Therefore, studies say that smoking is one of the risk factors associated with nasopharyngeal cancer mortality. (1)
Is There A Blood Test For Nasopharyngeal Cancer?
Nasopharyngeal cancer is often diagnosed only when the individual visits their health care provider because their symptoms mimic other conditions except for a small lump in the neck region. Nasopharyngeal cancer is not easy to examine and it requires special doctors and treatment to diagnose the disease. Basically, they are examined to determine the abnormal growths, bleeding or other infections by either direct or indirect nasopharyngoscopy. These tests carefully examine the nasopharynx. When these tests confirm that you have nasopharyngeal cancer, then other tests such as complete blood count & blood tests and EBV testing are carried out to ensure whether the infection has spread.
Complete Blood Count Test (CBC) – Advanced technology and medical research have unveiled non-invasive cancer tests that yield the best accurate results through simple blood tests. These tests not only help find nasopharyngeal cancer but also help you to determine if cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
This test measures the number and quality of white blood cells, red blood cells, and the blood platelets. The blood shows the evidence of infection and also the presence of EBV if found. Taking a blood test is perhaps one of the effective ways to diagnose the disease in its early stages. The blood test also checks for the antibodies against the EPV. (1) (2)
Cancer tests are conducted before and after the treatment to help show how well treatment is progressing.
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