Cancer is a group of many related diseases. All cancers begin in cells
, the body's basic unit of life. Cells make up tissues, and tissues make up the organs of the body.
Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old and die, new cells take their place. Sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the body does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor
Tumors can be benign or malignant.
Benign tumors are not cancer.
Usually, doctors can remove them. Cells from benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body. In most cases, benign tumors do not come back after they are removed. Most important, benign tumors are rarely a threat to life.
Malignant tumors are cancer.
They are generally more serious. Cancer cells can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Also, cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. That is how cancer cells spread from the original (primary
) tumor to form new tumors in other organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis
is the upper part of the throat (pharynx) that lies behind the nose. It is a box-like chamber about one and a half inches on each edge. It lies just above the soft part of the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and just in back of the entrance into the nasal passages.
Several types of tumors can develop in the nasopharynx. Some of these tumors are benign but others are malignant. Benign tumors of the nasopharynx are fairly rare and tend to occur in children and young adults. They include tumors or malformations of the vascular
(blood-carrying) system, such as angiofibromas and hemangiomas, and benign tumors of the minor salivary glands that are found within the nasopharynx. Treatment of these tumors (if it is needed) is different from that for cancerous nasopharyngeal tumors.
Malignant Nasopharyngeal Tumors
Malignant tumors can invade surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body. Following are the most common malignant nasopharyngeal tumors:
- This is the most common malignant tumor of the nasopharynx. A carcinoma is a cancer that starts in epithelial cells -- the cells lining the internal and external surfaces of the body. This tumor has three types: The Keratinizing Squamous Cell Carcinoma, the Non-Keratinizing Differentiated Carcinoma and the Undifferentiated Carcinoma.
These types all start from the same cell type -- the epithelial cells that cover the surface lining of the nasopharynx. The treatment is also usually the same for all types of nasopharyngeal cancer.
- Lymphomas can sometimes start in the nasopharynx. They are cancers of immune system cells called lymphocytes
, cells that are normally found in the nasopharynx.
Adenocarcinoma and Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma
- These are cancers that can develop in the minor salivary glands found in the nasopharynx.