Nose Cancer ( Nasopharyngeal Cancer or “NPC” )

In Singapore, the most common head and neck cancer occurs at the junction of the back of the nose, and the top of the throat (pharynx) called Nasopharyngeal Cancer (NPC). This is a form of nose cancer.

There are approximately 300 new cases of NPC diagnosed each year and it is the sixth most common type of cancer in Singapore. It is the commonest cancer in male Chinese from 20 to 60 years of age. The cause of the disease is focused around three main factors – Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) infection, ethnic & familial trends, and diet.

The majority of the NPC patients are detected at a late stage when patients present with lymph node enlargement in the neck. Other common presentations include blood stained sputum, nose bleeds, nose blockage, ear blockage, tinnitus (ringing sound in the ear) and hearing loss. The diagnosis is made on biopsy of the tumour in the nasopharynx, which shows undifferentiated carcinoma. Staging of the disease with MRI and PET-CT scans are necessary to determine the extent of the disease. Treatment of NPC usually involves radiation therapy with possible chemotherapy for more advanced disease. 

For small recurrent tumours, minimally invasive surgery can be performed. 

There is a strong first degree familiar trend and we offer screening for first degree relatives. The risk of a family member getting NPC is higher than in one without a close family member with NPC. 

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