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Treatment for Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Penn Head and Neck Cancer offers leading edge, multidisciplinary treatment for all types of nasopharyngeal cancers including squamous cell carcinoma, minor salivary gland cancer, lymphoma and sarcoma. Our head and neck cancer team consists of experts from Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and Penn Ear, Nose and Throat who have pioneered many of the latest advancements in nasopharyngeal cancer treatment.

We offer individualized treatment plans using the latest non-surgical and surgical techniques. Treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer will depend on the type and stage of the disease. These treatment plans may combine surgery, radiation and chemotherapy or surgery alone, each carrying their own risks and benefits.

Surgical Treatment for Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Types of surgical treatments performed to treat nasopharyngeal cancer include:

Endoscopic surgery

Microscopic direct laryngoscopy and laser microsurgery can be performed on nasopharyngeal cancer while avoiding primary radiation. One of the major benefits of this approach is that can be performed multiple times.

TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS)

TORS is the world's first minimally invasive robotic surgery technique that enables surgeons to remove benign and malignant tumors of the mouth and throat. TORS was invented and developed at Penn Medicine by the pioneering team of Bert W. O'Malley, Jr., MD and Gregory S. Weinstein, MD. There are many benefits of TORS for patients:

  • Quicker return to normal activity
  • Shorter hospitalization
  • Reduced risk of long-term swallowing problems (most commonly seen with chemo-radiation or traditional open surgery)
  • Fewer complications compared to traditional open surgery
  • Less scarring than traditional open surgery
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less risk of blood transfusion when compared to open surgery

Open Surgery Approach

We provide multiple open craniofacial approaches to the nasopharynx to provide exposure to the nasopharynx and surrounding structures.

Non-surgical Treatment for Nasopharyngeal Cancer

In some cases of nasopharyngeal cancer, non-surgical treatments may be used alone or in addition to surgery. Non-surgical treatments for nasopharyngeal cancer include:

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy for nasopharyngeal cancer can be provided at the Perelman Radiation Center. Oncologists at Penn Head and Neck Cancer work closely with the radiation oncologist to oversee follow-up care and ensure an individual's symptoms are managed. For advanced stages of nasopharyngeal cancer, chemotherapy and radiation are both used.


Chemotherapy is only used in the treatment of nasopharyngeal cancer as a sensitizer for radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is never given alone for treatment.