Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a rare type of head and neck cancer. It starts in the upper part of your throat, behind the nose. This area is called the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is precariously placed at the base of your skull, above the roof of your mouth. In the United States and in other areas where the disease is rare, routine screening for nasopharyngeal carcinoma isn't done. Although the incidence varies according to geographic location, approximately 1 in every 100,000 children are diagnosed annually in North America. In 2015, about 3,200 cases will occur in the United States.
Treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma usually involves radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of the two. When radiotherapy is used alone, survival rates range from 40-50%. Use of combination radiation therapy and chemotherapy allows long-term survival rates of 55-80%. Although there have been many studies conducted on the etiology of NPC, currently an understanding of the interaction between Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, genetic factors, and environment in the development of NPC has not been achieved. As a result, approaches to primary prevention of NPC remain under consideration.