What is nasopharyngeal cancer?
Nasopharyngeal cancer starts in the cells of the nasopharynx, which is part of the throat (pharynx). A cancerous (malignant) tumour is a group of cancer cells that can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
The pharynx is part of the digestive and respiratory systems. It is divided into 3 parts. The nasopharynx is the top part, located behind the nose. The oropharynx is the middle part. The hypopharynx is the bottom part.
Cells in the nasopharynx sometimes change and no longer grow or behave normally. These changes may lead to non-cancerous (benign) tumours such as angiofibroma or hemangioma.
But in some cases, changes to nasopharyngeal cells can cause nasopharyngeal cancer. Most often, nasopharyngeal cancer starts in the epithelial cells that line the inside of the nasopharynx. This type of cancer is called nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).
Rare types of nasopharyngeal cancer can also develop. These include nasopharyngeal papillary adenocarcinoma and minor salivary gland carcinoma.
A specialized cell that makes up the epithelium (a layer of cells that makes up the surface of the skin, and lines cavities, glands and passages in the body). Some epithelial cells make mucus, hormones or other secretions.
The 4 types of epithelial cells are squamous cells, columnar cells, cuboidal cells and transitional cells.