Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a type of head and neck cancer, also known as the “Cantonese Cancer”. It has a particularly high incidence in Southeast Asia. NPC is one of the top ten cancer killers1 and there are more than 800 new cases of NPC every year in Hong Kong.
NPC is one of the most aggressive head and neck cancers and affects an area at the back of the nose called the nasopharynx. NPC frequently metastasizes to distant lymph nodes and organs.
The symptoms of NPC are non-specific (nosebleed, headache and ringing in the ears) and resemble those of other common medical conditions.
NPC has a number of viral, environmental and Genetic influences.
These include but are not limited to:
- Infection with Epstein-Barr virus2
- Living in the southern part of China and Southeast Asia2
- Family History of NPC (4-8 times higher risk)3
Many patients do not have any signs or symptoms until NPC reaches an advanced stage. Late-stage NPC is more difficult to treat than early-stage NPC and the survival rate within 5 years could be less than 60%4.
Early cancer screening is one of the ways to secure a significantly better prognosis as it can help identify asymptomatic patients with NPC at a significantly earlier stage allowing early interventions and treatments.
- Hong Kong Cancer Registry. Leading Cancer Sites in Hong Kong in 2016. https://www3.ha.org.hk/cancereg/pdf/top10/rank_2016.pdf. Updated October 2018. Accessed April 1, 2020.
- Chua MLK, Wee JTS, Hui EP, Chan ATC. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The Lancet. 2016;387(10022):1012-1024. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(15)00055-0.
- NG WT, Choi CW, Lee MCH, Chan SH, Yau TK, Lee AWM. Familial nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Hong Kong: epidemiology and implication in screening. Fam Cancer. 2009;8(2):103-108. doi:10.1007/s20689-008-9213-9
- Wai Tong N, C.H.Anthony YING. Guidelines on Cancer Prevention, Early Detection & Screening Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma ( NPC ) NPC Screening Flow Cart.: 2005:1. https://www.hkacs.org.hk/uploadimages/download/00147/Guideline on NPC prevention, detection & screening (full recommendation).pdf.
- Lam WKJ, Jiang P, Chan KCA, et al. Sequencing-based counting and size profiling of plasma Epstein-Barr virus DNA enhance population screening of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018;115(22):E5115-E5124. doi:10.1073/pnas. 1804184115