Survival for nasopharyngeal cancer

Survival depends on different factors. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live.

Doctors usually work out the outlook for a certain disease by looking at large groups of people. Because this cancer is less common, survival is harder to estimate than for other, more common cancers.

Some of the statistics have to be based on a small number of people. Remember, they can't tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis).

You can also talk about this to the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Survival by stage

There are no UK wide statistics available for nasopharyngeal cancer survival by stage. 

The statistics below come from America. They come from the National Cancer Institute's SEER programme. They are for people diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer between 2009 and 2016.

Please be aware that these figures might not be a true picture of survival in the UK. This is due to differences in the American health care systems, data collection and the population. 

The American statistics are split into 3 stage groups – localised, regional and distant cancers. In the UK, your doctor might not use these terms. Instead, they might describe your cancer as a number stage (stage 1 to 4). The following descriptions are a guide to help you understand whether your cancer is localised, regional or distant. This isn’t straight forward and will depend on your individual situation. Talk to your specialist if you are unsure which group you are in.

There are 3 groups:

  • Localised cancers haven’t spread into nearby lymph nodes. 
  • Regional cancers have either spread into nearby lymph nodes. Or there is advanced local spread into nearby structures (for example T4 tumours).
  • Distant cancers have spread to other parts of the body, away from the nasopharynx.

Localised
85 out of 100 people (85%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis. 

Regional 
Around 70 out of 100 people (around 70%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Distant
Around  50 out of 100 people (around 50%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Survival for all stages of nasopharyngeal cancer

There are no UK wide statistics for nasopharyngeal cancer survival. 

The figures below come from a large European study. The study looked at people diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer between 2000 and 2007. 

For all people diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer in England and Ireland:

  • almost 75 out of 100 people (almost 75%) will survive their cancer for 1 year after diagnosis 
  • around 50 out of 100 people (50%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed 

What affects survival

Your outcome depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread. 

The type of cancer can also affect your likely survival. Your outlook also depends on which part of the nasopharynx is involved. 

Your general health and fitness also affect survival because overall, the fitter you are, the better you may be able to cope with your cancer and treatment. Also, if you smoke, your outlook is worse.

About these statistics

The terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival don't mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and researchers collect information. They watch what happens to people with cancer in the years after their diagnosis. 5 years is a common time point to measure survival. But some people live much longer than this.

5 year survival is the number of people who have not died from their cancer within 5 years after diagnosis.

More statistics

Last reviewed: 
01 Sep 2021
Next review due: 
02 Sep 2024
  • Survival rates for nasopharyngeal cancer 
     American Cancer Society website, accessed June 2021. 

  • Prognoses and improvement for head and neck cancers diagnosed in Europe in early 2000s: The EUROCARE-5 population-based study
    G Gatta and others
    European Journal of Cancer  Volume 51, Issue 15, October 2015, Pages 2130-2143

  • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (7th edition)
    American Joint Committee on Cancer
    Springer, 2010

  • Treatment of Cancer (6th edition)
    K Sikora and P Price (editors) 
    CRC Press, 2014