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    3 Jul 2023
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    CI Protection
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    Smoking is one of the main causes of cancer1. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma, also known as nose cancer, is a common type of cancer2. The initial symptoms of nose cancer are remarkably like that of colds and nasal allergies, so they are often ignored. The following article will explain the symptoms of nose cancer in detail, as well as provide a simple method you can use to conduct self-examination for nose cancer.

    What is Nasopharyngeal Cancer?

    The nasopharynx is a necessary part of the respiratory tract. It is located at the end of the nasal cavity at the center of the head and connected to the throat3. A nasopharyngeal tumor occurs when a malignant tumor forms on the surface of the nasopharyngeal mucosa and destroys the adjacent tissues. As the nasopharynx is connected to the lymph glands on both sides of the neck4, nasopharyngeal carcinoma may spread to the lymph nodes of the neck and even other organs after a nasopharyngeal carcinoma is formed5. It is usually difficult for patients to realise that they may have this disease as the location of the nasopharynx is often hidden. Furthermore, some symptoms of nasopharyngeal carcinoma are similar to common respiratory diseases such as rhinitis and sinusitis.

    What are the causes of nasopharyngeal carcinoma?

    Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is the most common head and neck cancer in Hong Kong. Studies have shown that close to 80% of nasopharyngeal cancer patients worldwide are from Asia3, especially in southern China coastal areas such as Hong Kong and Guangdong. The causes of nasopharyngeal carcinoma can be divided mainly into the following three aspects:

    1. Family genetics: If you have any immediate family members such as your parents or siblings who have been diagnosed with nose cancer, you are likely to have a higher chance of developing nose cancer as compared to the average person.
    2. Viral infection: One of the more common causes of nasopharyngeal carcinoma is the Epstein-Barr virus. Even though the Epstein-Barr virus is common all over the world, it usually only causes mild cold-like symptoms6, making it difficult to detect.
    3. Unhealthy living habits: Engaging in an unhealthy lifestyle such as smoking, eating smoked and preserved food such as instant noodles, the risk of developing nose cancer is likely to be higher7. Some studies have also pointed out that frequent exposure to burning incense candles8 or exposure to high concentration of formaldehyde9 could also cause nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

    Self-examination for nose cancer

    Here are some early symptoms of nose cancer and some ways that you can do a quick preliminary self-examination3:

    1. Runny or study nose
    2. Nosebleeds or phlegm with red clots or dark red streaks
    3. Tinnitus, partial deafness or hearing loss5
    4. Unexplained headaches
    5. Appearance of painless lump in neck lymph nodes
    6. Sudden paralysis of the face

    As the initial symptoms of nasopharyngeal carcinoma are almost the same as respiratory diseases, it is oftentimes difficult to detect and easily underestimated. Thus, in many cases, treatment is often delayed and the key period for treatment is missed. To better protect ourselves, we can also go for nose cancer screenings, such as the EVB DNA serum test (also known as nasopharyngeal cancer virus antibody test). Going for cancer screening to help with early detection and early treatment of the disease can help to increase the chances of survival.

    What are the differences at each stage of nose cancer?

    The stage of nose cancer is diagnosed by doctors according to the size of the tumor, the extent of its influence and whether it has spread across the body or to other lymph nodes. Below is a brief description of nose cancer development from stage 1 to 410.

    Stage Disease progression5-year survival rate

    Stage 1

    There is a tumor growth in the nasopharynx. Surrounding tissues have not been invaded.

    More than 92%

    Stage 2

    The tissues on the side of the pharynx have been invaded by the tumor.

    More than 83%

    Stage 3

    Cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes on both sides of the neck.

    More than 77%

    Stage 4

    The tumor has spread to distant locations, such as the brain, bones, or invaded the nerves that control the head and neck. It may have also spread to the lymph nodes in the collarbone area. At this stage, the symptoms are obvious, and lymph nodes can swell to over 6 cm.

    About 47%

    In general, the rate at which cancer spreads increases as the disease progresses. After the doctor determines a patient’s approximate survival time left, it is important to monitor the nasopharyngeal cancer index closely and notice any changes in the patient’s condition. It is also essential to select an appropriate treatment plan.

    When being diagnosed with nose cancer or any other cancer, having insurance can help give you peace of mind and reduce the financial burden from medical expenses.

    FWD Editor
    FWD is dedicated to sharing with you related to health, lifestyle, wealth, and insurance. You can complete an application through FWD Online Insurance Platform in as quickly as 5 minutes.
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