Treating Nasopharyngeal Cancer

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society's Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information for nasopharyngeal cancer

After the cancer is found and staged, your cancer care team will discuss treatment options (choices) with you. Depending on the stage of the cancer, your overall health, and other factors, your treatment options may include:

Depending on the stage of the cancer, some of these treatments may be combined. For most nasopharyngeal cancers (NPCs), a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy is used.

Based on the stage of the cancer, you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors may include:

  • An otolaryngologist (also known as an ear, nose, and throat, or ENT doctor): a surgeon who treats certain diseases of the head and neck.
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. (See the section What Should You Ask Your Doctor About Nasopharyngeal Cancer? for some questions to ask.) If time permits, it is often a good idea to get a second opinion. A second opinion can give you more information and help you feel confident about your chosen treatment plan.

The next few sections describe the various types of treatments used for nasopharyngeal cancers. This is followed by a description of the most common approaches used for these cancers, based on their stage.