What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Nasopharyngeal Cancer?

Because the nasopharynx is located at the back of the nose directly above the oral cavity, the most common symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer affect the nose, mouth and ears. When tumors develop in this small passageway, they can place pressure on nearby nerves and organs. This can result in headaches, nosebleeds, recurrent ear infections and facial pain, among other warning signs.

Additional symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer include:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Blurry vision
  • Pressure inside an ear canal
  • Numbness or tingling in the face

These symptoms tend to become more pronounced over time, although some – such as blurred vision – can periodically come and go.

Can you feel nasopharyngeal cancer?

Many people who develop nasopharyngeal tumors can feel small lumps on one or both sides of their neck. These lumps are not the tumors, but rather inflamed lymph nodes. Most lymph nodes are very small and cannot be felt. However, a lymph node that is invaded by cancerous cells can potentially swell to several times its normal size. Lymph nodes that remain swollen for several days should be discussed with a medical professional – especially if any other warnings signs of nasopharyngeal cancer are present.

How is nasopharyngeal cancer diagnosed?

Several tests can be performed to determine the cause of these symptoms. A physician may order an imaging scan to look for abnormal clusters of cells in the head or neck. If needed, a biopsy can also be performed to check for the presence of cancerous cells in a suspicious growth. In many cases, the resulting diagnosis is less serious than cancer. Nosebleeds, for instance, can be caused by allergies and sinus inflammation, while headaches often result from stress or dehydration.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, you can have your symptoms evaluated by an experienced head and neck cancer specialist with no referral required. If you’re concerned that you might be experiencing symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer and would like to request an appointment with a member of our team, call 1-888-663-3888 or submit a new patient registration form online.