Health Articles


Did you know? Singapore has one of the highest incidences of nasopharyngeal cancer in the world

Around 8.9 per 100,000 males are affected per year. There is a 90 percent cure rate if the disease is treated at an early stage. Hence, detecting nasopharyngeal cancer at an early stage is crucial for better treatment outcomes and increases one's chances of recovery.

We commemorate World Head and Neck Cancer Day today! Among the cancers affecting the head and neck regions, nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is a significant concern for Singaporeans as Singapore has one of the highest incidences of nasopharyngeal cancer in the world, with around 8.9 per 100,000 males affected per year.

Most of the nasopharyngeal cancer cases occur in the ethnic Chinese race, at the age of 50-59 years old. It also occurs 3 times more frequently in males than in females.

Detecting nasopharyngeal cancer early enables better treatment outcomes and increases one’s chances of recovery. There is a 90 percent cure rate if the disease is treated at an early stage. The rate drops to only 60 per cent for stage 3 and below 50 percent in stage 4. Hence, early detection is key.

Make a positive impact in the fight against nasopharyngeal cancer by being aware of the common signs to look out for, the screening options available, and seek help early!


Common Signs and Symptoms

Patients may not exhibit any noticeable symptoms in the early stages of nasopharyngeal cancer. Hence, it is crucial to seek medical advice if you notice any recurrent or persistent (lasting more than a month) warning signs:

  • Blocked ears: Blocked ears on one side that come and go
  • Nasal Congestion: Frequent nasal congestion that doesn't improve with treatment
  • Blood-stained Saliva/phlegm: Coughing up blood-tinged saliva or phlegm
  • Sore Throat
  • Neck Lumps: Feeling a lump or swelling in the neck, which may or may not be painful
  • Hearing Problems: Unexplained hearing loss or ringing in the ears
  • Nose bleeding
  • Headaches and Facial Pain: Particularly in the forehead or around the eyes, along with facial pain


Parkway Laboratories aids in the fight against nasopharyngeal cancer

Parkway Laboratories offers some screening options that aid in the screening and diagnosis of nasopharyngeal cancer. Consult you doctor if you exhibit any signs and symptoms or have family history of nasopharyngeal cancer (especially in first degree relatives)

*Your doctor will assess your risks and signs and symptoms. If you are assessed to be at higher risk of nasopharyngeal cancer, several tests may be ordered.


1. NPC Gold Test from Lucence

The NPC Gold test from Lucence is an innovative and non-invasive liquid biopsy that uses a simple blood sample to detect circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA). It is highly accurate (with 89% Sensitivity and 100% Specificity) in identifying nasopharyngeal cancer at its earliest stages, even before noticeable symptoms arise. The test detects BamHI-W, a DNA fragment of the Epstein-Barr virus which is found in almost all patients with nasopharyngeal cancer.



The EBV EA IgA REAAD test detects specific antibodies of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) which has a significant association with nasopharyngeal cancer. Most people get infected with EBV at some point in their lives. For most people, the virus will persist in the blood cells in a latent state.  In some cases, the EBV infection may subsequently reactivate and trigger the development of nasopharyngeal cancer. Hence, this test aids in assessing one’s risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.


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  1. Early Detection. Early Cure. Lucence NPC GOLD (2021). Accessed from:
  2. Nasopharyngeal Cancer (Nose Cancer) (2019). Accessed from:
  3. Nasopharyngeal Cancer in Singapore: A Primary Care Update (2022). Accessed from:
  4. Singapore Cancer Registry 50th Anniversary Monograph (1968 – 2017). Accessed from:
  5. GLOBOCAN 2020 Nasopharyngeal Cancer Fact Sheet. Accessed from:


This article has been reviewed by Dr Tan Min-Han, Medical Oncologist.

Dr Tan Min-Han is a medical oncologist and clinical cancer geneticist by training. He has received scientific awards for research from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO). Dr. Tan is the founding CEO and Medical Director of Lucence Health, a medical company that delivers liquid biopsies for earlier cancer detection in blood for patients. Lucence is the first and only Asian-headquartered healthcare company to receive United States Medicare national insurance approval for its services