Treatments for stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer
Chemoradiation is the main treatment for stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer. In chemoradiation, chemotherapy is given during the same time period as radiation therapy. Each treatment makes the other more effective.
Chemoradiation therapy for stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer uses cisplatin and external beam radiation therapy.
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You may be offered radiation therapy for stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer if you can’t tolerate chemoradiation and its side effects. External beam radiation is given to the site of the tumour and to the lymph nodes in the neck (cervical lymph nodes).
The type of external beam radiation therapy used for stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer is usually intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
Chemotherapy with cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil, 5-FU) is often given after chemoradiation or radiation therapy to lower the chance that the cancer will come back (recur).
A neck dissection is surgery to remove cervical lymph nodes. It is done if cancer in the cervical lymph nodes doesn’t respond to chemoradiation or radiation therapy.
If the tumour is only on one side of the nasopharynx, the surgeon will only remove the lymph nodes on the same side of the neck as the tumour. If the tumour is near the centre of the nasopharynx, the surgeon will remove the lymph nodes on both sides of the neck in case the tumour has spread to both sides.
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American Cancer Society. Nasopharyngeal Cancer. 2015: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/nasopharyngeal-cancer.html.
National Cancer Institute. Nasopharyngeal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2015: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/nasopharyngeal-treatment-pdq#section/all.
Ng WT, Ngan RKC, Chan SH, et al . Management of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Bernier J (ed.). Head and Neck Cancer: Multimodality Management. Springer; 2016: 26: 445 - 473.