What Is the Function of the Nasopharynx?

The nasopharynx, the upper area of the throat behind the nose, is the space above the soft part of the roof of the mouth that allows the passage of air from the nose to the throat, according to Healthline. The nasopharynx also provides drainage for lymphatic fluids.

The nasopharynx, the oropharynx and the hypopharynx make up the pharynx, which is part of the respiratory system. The soft upper part of the mouth separates the nasopharynx from the oropharynx. According to Healthline, even when surrounding muscles flex, the nasopharynx stays open so that the person can breathe. Since the nasopharynx is made of tissue that traps bacteria and viruses that enter through the nose and mouth, testing the secretions from the nasopharynx helps find viruses and bacteria that may cause illness or disease, notes MedlinePlus.

Benign and malignant tumors can develop in the pharynx. The American Cancer Society states that benign tumors are rare and occur more often in children and young adults. Malignant cancers in the nasopharynx can spread to other parts of the body. According to WebMD, only seven in 1 million people get nasopharyngeal cancer in North America, and it is most common in southeast China. Radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and medications are used to treat nasopharyngeal cancer.