NASOPHARYNGEAL CANCER

Surgery

Surgery for nasopharyngeal cancer is not common because the area is difficult to get to and it is close to important nerves and blood vessels. Surgery may be needed, if the cancer returns after previous treatment with radiation therapy.

How can I prepare for the surgery?

Your doctor will explain details of the surgery, general risks and side effects of surgery. Ask your doctor if you have questions. They may recommend:

  • stopping blood thinners (e.g. aspirin) before surgery to reduce the risk of bleeding

  • special stockings to reduce the risk of blood clots

  • early mobilisation (i.e. not staying in bed) to reduce the risk of blood clots and chest infection

  • antibiotics to lower the risk of wound infection.

If you smoke, it is important that you consider stopping smoking before starting treatment to help reduce the risk of infection and help you recover after your treatment.

 Surgical procedures 

The type of surgery used in this situation will depend on the size and location of the recurrent cancer.

ENdoscopic sinus surgery 

This is where a telescope and surgical instruments are passed through the nose to get to the nasopharynx without external cuts.
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Maxillary swing

This is where a cut is made in the upper lip and next to the nose, and the upper jaw is cut to allow the surgeon to get access to the nasopharynx.
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Neck dissection

This involves removal of lymph nodes from the neck. It is used to take out lymph nodes that have not responded to radiation therapy or to treat cancer that has come back after earlier treatment.
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Side effects of surgery

Treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer may lead to a number of side effects. You may not experience all of the side effects. Speak with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about treatment side effects.