Nasopharyngeal mucoepidermoid carcinoma: a rare tumor in nasopharynx


  • Foong Seong Kin Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur
  • Yong Doh Jeing Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
  • Azman Mawaddah Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur



Mucoepidermoid carcinoma, Nasopharynx, Nasoendoscopy


Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) is a malignant epithelial salivary gland neoplasm which consists of a mixture of mucin-producing columnar cells, epidermoid (squamous) cells and polygonal intermediate cells. Salivary gland-type carcinomas are extremely rare to be found in the nasopharynx. A 46-year-old lady presented with bilateral progressive nasal blockage and occasional epistaxis for 3 years. However, there was no neck swelling. Nasoendoscopy revealed a huge nasopharyngeal mass. Tissue biopsy in clinic setting reported of inverted papilloma. Computed tomography shows large irregular heterogenously enhancing mass in nasopharynx. Posterior septectomy was done for the access and endoscopic excision of nasopharyngeal tumor was performed. Histopathological examination confirmed the tumor is mucoepidermoid carcinoma. Postoperative adjuvant concurrent chemoradiotherapy with total of 66 Gy was commenced in view of concern of possible residual microscopic disease. Nasopharynx is an uncommon site for MEC. MEC patients seldom has enlarged neck node at presentation.Nasopharyngeal salivary gland-type carcinomas does not commonly cause cranial nerve palsy compared to nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). In cases with huge nasopharyngeal mass without neck nodes and cranial nerves involvement, MEC can be a differential diagnosis. Surgical removal of gross disease and concurrent chemoradiotherapy as an adjuvant treatment for likely residual microscopic disease is the standard treatment for nasopharyngeal mucoepidermoid carcinoma.


Kuo TT, Chan JKC, Wenig BM, Eveson JW. Nasopharyngeal papillary adenocarcinoma and salivary gland-type carcinomas. In: Barnes L, Eveson JW, Reichart P, Sidransky D, eds. World Health Organization Classification Tumors: Pathology and Genetics of Head and Neck tumors. 3rd ed. Albany, NY, USA: IARC Press; 2005: 82-98.

Garden AS, Weber RS, Ang KK, Morrison WH, Matre J, Peters LJ. Postoperative radiation therapy for malignant tumors of minor salivary glands. Outcome and patterns of failure. Cancer. 1994;73(10):2563-9.

Spiro RH, Huvos AG, Berk R, Strong EW. Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of salivary gland origin. A clinicopathologic study of 367 cases. Am J Surg. 1978;136(4):461-8.