Nasopharyngeal cancer chemotherapy drugs | Cancer Research UK
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Nasopharyngeal cancer chemotherapy drugs

Men and women discussing nasopharyngeal cancer

This page has information about the chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer of the nasopharynx. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Nasopharyngeal cancer chemotherapy drugs

It is most common to have 2 or more chemotherapy drugs together to treat cancer. You may hear this called combination chemotherapy. The main drugs doctors use to treat nasopharyngeal cancers are

  • Cisplatin
  • Fluorouracil (5-FU)

Other chemotherapy drugs that doctors may use for nasopharyngeal cancer include

  • Docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • Gemcitabine

How you have chemotherapy

You have these drugs through a drip into your arm, usually once every 3 or 4 weeks. Each 3 or 4 week period is known as one cycle of treatment. You will probably have between 3 and 4 cycles. Your own doctor will decide the exact amount and number of treatments you have. So the complete chemotherapy course can take several months or more.

If you have chemoradiation, you usually have chemotherapy once every week or once every 3 weeks during the radiotherapy course.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating nasopharyngeal cancer section.

 

 

The drugs you may have

It is most common to have 2 or more chemotherapy drugs together to treat cancer. You may hear this called combination chemotherapy. Using 2 or more drugs together is often more effective than using one drug. The main drugs doctors use to treat nasopharyngeal cancer are

Other chemotherapy drugs that doctors have looked at more recently for nasopharyngeal cancer include

The links above will take you to information about the specific side effects of each drug.

 

Chemoradiation drugs

If you have stage 3 or 4 nasopharyngeal cancer you are likely to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time (known as chemoradiation or synchronous treatment). Some people with stage 2 nasopharyngeal cancer may also have this treatment. You may have one of the following chemotherapy drugs

Some of this treatment is experimental and you may have it as part of a clinical trial. Doctors use the results from clinical trials to improve treatment for head and neck cancers in the future. 

There is information about the side effects of chemoradiation on the next page in this section.

 

How you have chemotherapy

You usually have chemotherapy as cycles of treatment. You have these drugs through a drip (intravenous infusion) into your arm, usually once every 3 or 4 weeks. Or you may have the drugs through a tube going into your chest called a central line or portacath. Each 3 or 4 week period is known as one cycle of treatment. You will probably have between 3 and 4 cycles. Your own doctor will decide the exact amount and number of treatments you have. So the complete chemotherapy course can take several months or more.

If you have chemoradiation, you usually have chemotherapy once a week or once every 3 weeks during the radiotherapy course.

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Updated: 26 August 2014