Nasopharyngeal Tumors

A nasopharyngeal tumor is a growth that forms in the nasopharynx, or the uppermost portion of the throat that is found behind the nasal cavity. The nasopharynx serves as a passageway for air from the nose to the throat and eventually to the lungs. A tumor in the nasopharynx may be either benign or malignant. Nasopharyngeal tumors that are malignant or cancerous, may spread to surrounding tissue and other parts of the body.

Symptoms of Nasopharyngeal Tumors

The symptoms of a nasopharyngeal tumor may include:

  • Pain
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Earache
  • Nosebleeds
  • Hoarse voice

Causes of Nasopharyngeal Tumors

While the exact cause of nasopharyngeal tumors is unknown, certain people may be at an increased risk of developing this condition, including those who:

  • Smoke
  • Chew tobacco
  • Consume large amounts of alcohol
  • Have a personal or family history of head and neck cancer
  • Have had exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace
  • Lack fruits and vegetables in their diet

Some research indicates that there is a link between the Epstein-Barr virus and the formation of nasopharyngeal tumors and that the virus may may cause cells in the nasopharynx to become cancerous.

Diagnosis of Nasopharyngeal Tumors

To diagnose a nasopharyngeal tumor, a doctor will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination. A fiberoptic nasopharyngoscopy may be performed to evaluate the nasopharynx and carefully observe any abnormal growths within the tissue. During the procedure, a thin, fiberoptic tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the nose to provide real-time images of the area. A biopsy may be performed, and small samples of tissue can be removed from the area during the nasopharyngoscopy. Additional imaging tests may be helpful in obtaining a better view of the mass and may include:

  • MRI
  • X-ray
  • CT scan

Treatment of Nasopharyngeal Tumors

If no cancer is found, the benign tumor will likely be removed endoscopically. The tumor may be an angiofibroma, hemangioma or salivary gland tumor. Removing the tumor is recommended even when it is benign because many of these masses can grow to large sizes, causing obstructions and damaging surrounding structures. If cancer is present, it will typically be treated with a combination of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. However, surgery may also be necessary, particularly if the tumor is recurrent.

The Nasopharyngeal Tumor Removal Procedure

An endoscopy is also commonly used to remove a malignant nasopharyngeal tumor. It involves the use of an endoscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end to provide the surgeon with a detailed view of the treatment site.The surgeon typically operates through the nose to approach the skull base and remove the nasopharyngeal tumor.

No incisions are necessary for an endoscopic nasopharyngeal tumor removal procedure.The endoscope and small surgical tools are inserted directly through the nostrils. This route provides greater access to areas of the nasopharynx than external incisions on the face or within the mouth.The surgeon uses the tools to completely remove all of the tumor tissue found in the nasopharynx while viewing the procedure on a monitor. If the tumor is cancerous, it may be necessary to remove some of the tissue surrounding it as well.

After the nasopharyngeal tumor is removed, follow-up appointments with a doctor are recommended, since some types of nasopharyngeal tumors may eventually recur and require treatment.

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