Epidemiology of Nose Cancer
Nose cancer (Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma or NPC) is the 5th most common cancer in males and 10th most common cancer in female in Singapore. 200 new cases of Nose Cancer are diagnosed each year. More males developed Nose Cancer than females. 80% Nose Cancer patients are mainly in the 31 to 60 year age group. Nose Cancer affects mainly the Chinese and a small percentage of Malay.
What are the risk factors in Nose Cancer?
Ebstein Barr Virus has been associated with nose cancer. Blood test for the EBV virus is used as a screening tool for nose cancer. If someone in your family has nose cancer, you have a 15 to 20 % risk of developing nose cancer. Screening for nose cancer is important for this group of individuals. Diet high in salted fish and nitrosamines are also associated with increased risk of nose cancer.
How does Nose Cancer present?
50% of nose cancer patient present with neck lumps. This represent a late stage of nose cancer with poorer prognosis. Early signs of nose cancer includes
- Blood Stained Sputum
- Blocked Nose
- Mucus and Bleeding from the Nose
- Hearing Loss ( especially unilateral or one sided hearing loss)
- Hoarse Voice
- Swallowing Difficulty
As the nose cancer starts in the depth of the nose, most are not discovered till late. Only one third of patients with nose cancer are diagnosed in the early stages.
What are the treatment options for Nose Cancer?
For early stages (Stage 1 &2),nose cancers treatment is primarily by radiotherapy. In later stages, most nose cancer treatment will require combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Early detection of nose cancer has a high rate of cure.
How is screening for nose cancer performed and who should be screened?
Screening includes a detailed history and an examination of the post nasal space which is an area at the back of the nose. This can be done with a mirror or more accurately by an endoscope. Special lighting during the examination also improves the detection of nose cancer.
Individuals with symptoms of neck lumps, nose bleed, blood stained sputum and hearing loss should be an ENT specialist. Individuals who have family members who have nose cancer should also go for regular checks.
Remember early detection and early nose cancer treatment means cure is possible.