Treatments for nasopharyngeal cancer

If you have nasopharyngeal cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for nasopharyngeal cancer, your healthcare team will consider:

  • the stage of the cancer
  • the location of the cancer
  • your age and overall health
  • what you prefer or want

Expert review and references

Treatments for stage 1 nasopharyngeal cancer

The main treatment for stage 1 nasopharyngeal cancer is radiation therapy.

Treatments for stage 2 nasopharyngeal cancer

The main treatment for stage 2 nasopharyngeal cancer is chemoradiation.

Treatments for stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer

The main treatment for stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer is chemoradiation.

Treatments for stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer

The main treatments for stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer include chemoradiation and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy and immunotherapy may be offered.

Treatments for recurrent nasopharyngeal cancer

Recurrent nasopharyngeal cancer means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may recur in the same location as the original cancer or it may recur in another part of the body.

Radiation therapy for nasopharyngeal cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells.

Chemotherapy for nasopharyngeal cancer

Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to treat cancer. It is a systemic therapy that circulates throughout the body and destroys cancer cells, including those that may have broken away from the primary tumour.

Surgery for nasopharyngeal cancer

Surgery is rarely used to treat primary nasopharyngeal cancer. The anatomy and location of the nasopharynx make it difficult for surgeons to easily reach and completely remove these tumours.

Immunotherapy for nasopharyngeal cancer

Immunotherapy is sometimes used to treat nasopharyngeal cancer. Immunotherapy helps to strengthen or restore the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is sometimes called biological therapy.

Follow-up after treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer

Nasopharyngeal cancer behaves differently in each person, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. People with nasopharyngeal cancer should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation. Follow-up care is often shared among the cancer specialists (radiation oncologist, medical oncologist and head and neck surgeon) and family doctor.