Nasopharyngeal Cancer in Children and Adolescents
Nasopharyngeal cancer treatment is complex because the disease and its treatments can affect breathing, swallowing, and talking. At Duke, our experienced team includes cancer experts, ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctors, dietitians, speech therapists, and others who work together to give your child complete care. We provide a full spectrum of services and support to help you and your family.
Specialized Cancer Care for Children at all Ages and Stages
Nasopharyngeal cancer is a tumor that develops in the upper part of the throat behind the nose. Since it is more common in adolescents than in younger children, it is important to work with a team that customizes care and support services to fit the needs of children of all ages.
- Your child’s care team includes cancer doctors who specialize in radiation and chemotherapy, along with otolaryngologists (ear, nose and, throat -- or ENT -- doctors), specialized nurses, and social workers. Nutritionists and speech therapists are also part of your child’s medical team because nasopharyngeal cancer and its treatment affect eating, swallowing, and talking.
- Our nasopharyngeal cancer specialists are also researchers who are working to improve treatment for childhood cancer. They work collaboratively with pediatric cancer experts from around the world through the Children's Oncology Group, the world’s largest childhood and adolescent cancer research organization. That means your child has access to the latest treatments that are based on the experience of childhood cancer experts worldwide.
- Teens and young adults are too old to be treated like young kids but may be too young for adult care. Our Adolescent and Young Adult Program brings together the expertise of pediatric and adult cancer specialists to determine what’s best for your child. We offer psychological support to help them cope with cancer treatment and how it affects their self-confidence, appearance, and social life.
Diagnosing Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Our pediatric cancer doctors use blood tests and advanced imaging -- such as MRI, CT, and PET scans -- to diagnose nasopharyngeal cancer. Our ENT doctors examine the area closely and take a tiny sample of the tumor with a thin, flexible tube called a nasopharyngoscope that is inserted through the nose. This information helps the team develop a treatment plan that will offer your child the best possible results.
The goal of chemotherapy is to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing and prevent cancer from returning. Pediatric medical oncologists provide chemotherapy through an IV infusion, in a pill or liquid form, or via an injection.
External-beam radiation therapy, which is delivered by a machine outside the body, focuses high-energy X-ray beams on tumors to kill or stop the growth of cancer cells. Our pediatric radiation oncologists specially design individual radiation treatments to limit possible long-term effects of treatment. They use advanced imaging techniques to determine the exact location of the tumor and to minimize damage to surrounding tissues.
Family-Friendly Support Services
We treat the whole child -- not just the disease. Your child receives a personalized treatment and follow-up plan that’s tailored to their needs. You have access to a variety of services that are designed to make your child’s experience as positive as possible and support your family throughout treatment.
We offer outpatient services -- such as chemotherapy, transfusions, and lab tests -- 12 hours a day, seven days a week at Duke Children’s Valvano Day Hospital. This means your child won’t have to be admitted to the hospital just because they feel ill or need treatment on a day when your doctor’s office is closed.
You want your child to be as comfortable as possible during treatment. Our team focuses on managing your child’s symptoms and other aspects of treatment that affect your child’s quality of life. We help with pain management, supportive nutrition, relaxation techniques, and other approaches to help your child get through treatment. We’re here to improve your child’s and your family’s well-being during treatment and hospitalization.
Once treatment is complete, you can count on us for continuing support. We offer long-term follow-up services for preventive health care, including screenings and ongoing surveillance. Our cancer care doctors and nurses work with social workers and child psychologists who can offer support and assistance with school-related or personal issues. In addition, we can help your child transition to adult cancer care services when they’re ready. If your child needs other services related to treatment, we refer you to subspecialists. You’ll have resources and support to ensure your child’s long-term well-being.
We understand how difficult it is when your child is fighting cancer, so we try to make it a little easier on your entire family. Whether it's explaining a procedure, offering encouragement, or arranging fun activities during therapy or during a hospital stay, your child gets care in a welcoming, kid-friendly environment. And, you and your family can get emotional support and education to help you cope as your child goes through treatment and recovery.
It’s helpful to have a team on your side to help you manage your child’s care. Our social workers help you navigate the medical system and coordinate the variety of health services your child needs. They can help you work with insurance providers, connect you with resources, and help you manage the details related to your child’s care. Our nurse coordinators can help you schedule appointments for tests, treatments, and other medical visits.
Enjoy a comfortable place to relax at the hospital. You can grab a light meal, shower, do laundry, or use a computer with internet access. Staffed by volunteers, the family room is here to make your time at the hospital a little more comfortable.