Incidence of nasopharyngeal carcinoma has remained high in endemic regions. Diagnosing the disease in the early stages requires a high index of clinical acumen and, although most cross-sectional imaging investigations show the tumour with precision, confirmation is dependent on histology. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-encoded RNA signal is present in all nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells, and early diagnosis of the disease is possible through the detection of raised antibodies against EBV. The quantity of EBV DNA detected in blood indicates the stage and prognosis of the disease. Radiotherapy with concomitant chemotherapy has increased survival, and improved techniques (such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy), early detection of recurrence, and application of appropriate surgical salvage procedures have contributed to improved therapeutic results. Screening of high-risk individuals in endemic regions together with developments in gene therapy and immunotherapy might further improve outcome.