Signs and Symptoms of Nasopharyngeal Cancer

About 3 out of 4 people with NPC complain of a lump or mass in the neck when they first see their doctor. There may be lumps on both sides of the neck towards the back. The lumps are usually not tender or painful. This is caused by the cancer spreading to lymph nodes in the neck, making them larger than normal. Lymph nodes are glands or organs that contain collections of immune system cells that are found throughout the body. Normally, they are smaller than the size of a pea.

Other possible symptoms of NPC include:

  • Hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or feeling of fullness in the ear (especially on one side only)
  • Ear infections that keep coming back
  • Nasal blockage or stuffiness
  • Nosebleeds
  • Headache
  • Facial pain or numbness
  • Trouble opening the mouth
  • Blurred or double vision

Ear infections are common in children, but are less common in adults. If you develop an infection in one ear and you have not had ear infections in the past, it is important to have a specialist examine your nasopharynx. This is especially true if you don't have an upper respiratory tract infection (like a “cold”) along with the ear infection.

Many of the symptoms and signs of NPC are more often caused by other, less serious diseases. Still, if you have any of these problems, it's important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: January 15, 2015 Last Revised: August 8, 2016

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