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People with NPC may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with NPC do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your doctor.
- A lump in the neck (the most common symptom)
- Nasal obstruction or stuffiness
- Trouble hearing or hearing loss and/or a sense of fullness or pain in the ear that is caused by a buildup of fluid in the middle ear (serous otitis media, caused by blockage of the Eustachian tube), especially if persistent and occurring in just one ear
- Pain and ringing in the ear
- A persistent sore throat
- Trouble breathing or speaking
- Frequent nose bleeds
- Pain, numbness, or paralysis in the face
- Frequent headaches
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Blurred or double vision
- Unexplained weight loss
People who notice any of these warning signs should talk with a doctor and/or dentist right away. When detected early, cancers of the head and neck have a much better chance of cure.
Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.
Because many of these symptoms can be caused by other noncancerous conditions as well, it is important to receive regular health and dental screenings; this is particularly important for people who routinely drink alcohol or currently use tobacco products or have used them in the past.
In fact, people who use alcohol and tobacco should receive a general screening examination at least once a year. This is a simple, quick procedure in which the doctor looks in the nose, mouth, and throat for abnormalities and feels for lumps in the neck. If anything unusual is found, then the doctor will recommend a more extensive examination using one or more of the diagnostic procedures mentioned in Diagnosis.
If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.