Clinical and Histological Characteristics of Nasopharyngeal Cancer in Sokoto, North Western, Nigeria

  • K Iseh
  • A Abdullahi
  • S Malami
Keywords: Nasopharyngeal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, high mortality, North-western Nigeria.


BACKGROUND: Cancer of the nasopharynx poses diagnostic and therapeutic difficulties because of the hidden nature of the nasopharyngeal space, which allows for significant spread of the disease before diagnosis and hence poor prognosis.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the clinical and histological characteristics of nasopharyngeal cancer in a tertiarty health institution in Northern Nigeria.
METHODS:Clinical features of patients with nasopharyngeal cancer presenting at the Ear, Nose and Throat clinic of a University Teaching Hospital in North western Nigeria seen over a five-year period were analysed.
RESULT: A total number of 30 cases, [22(73.3%) males and 8(27.7%) females] with a male to female ratio of 2.8:1 were seen. The mean age was 39.1years with the fourth decade of life recording the highest number of 16 cases(53.3%) and the least in the thirth decade. The commonest clinical features were neck swelling caused by cervical lymphadenopathy 28(93.3%), epistaxis 25(83.3%), nasal obstruction 20(66.7%),and deafness 11(36.7%).Others were otalgia 9(30%), palatal swelling
8(26.7%),cranial nerve involvement 7(23.3%) and visual impairment 6(20%). According to the UICC 1997 staging for nasopharyngeal carcinoma,23(76.7%) and 7(23.3%) were T3 and T4 or stages III and IV respectively.The histological diagnoses were squamous cell carcinoma 23(76.7%) cases, non-Hodgkins lymphoma 3(10%) cases, plasmacytoma 2(6.7%) cases, rhabdomyosarcoma one (3.3%) case, karposis sarcoma one (3.3%) cases. Seventeen (56.7%) patients though accepted in principle never went for radiotherapy. Only 2(6.7%) were still alive three
and six years respectively from the time of diagnosis after chemoradiation while all others (93.3%) had died within one year of diagnosis.
CONCLUSION: Nasopharyngeal cancer in Northern Nigeria is characterised by presentation with advanced disease, high mortality and low 5-year survival rates. Free or highly subsidized medical programme for early detection and treatment will reduce the high mortality rate associated with nasopharyngeal cancer in this region.

WAJM 2009; 28(3): 151–155.


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eISSN: 0189-160X