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What is sinus cancer?

Your paranasal sinuses are small hollow spaces around the nose. They are lined with cells that make mucus, which keeps your nose from drying out. The nasal cavity is the passageway just behind your nose. Air passes through it on the way to your throat as you breathe.

Sinus cancer are abnormal cell growths that begin in and around the passageway within your nose (nasal cavity).

How common is sinus cancer?

Sinus cancer is extremely rare. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of sinus cancer?

The common symptoms of sinus cancer are:

  • Nasal obstruction or persistent nasal congestion and stuffiness, which is often called sinus congestion
  • Chronic sinus infections that do not respond to antibiotic treatment
  • Frequent headaches or pain in the sinus region
  • Pain or swelling in the face, eyes, or ears
  • Persistent tearing of the eyes
  • Bulging of one of the eyes or vision loss
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Pain or numbness in the teeth
  • Loosening of teeth
  • A lump on the face, nose, or inside the mouth
  • Frequent runny nose
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • A lump or sore inside the nose that does not heal
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A lump in the neck

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes sinus cancer?

There are actually many different types of tumors that can form in the nose or sinuses. Some of these are listed below:

  • Inverted papillomas
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Transitional cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Sarcomas
  • Lymphoma
  • Plasmacytoma
  • Giant cell tumor
  • Metastatic carcinoma

Sometimes, people with nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer do not show any of these symptoms. In fact, these types of cancer are usually diagnosed in their later stages because early-stage cancer typically does not cause any symptoms. Sinus cancer is often discovered when a person is being treated for seemingly benign, inflammatory disease of the sinuses, such as sinusitis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for sinus cancer?

There are 2 risk factors that greatly increase the risk of nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer:

  • Tobacco use. Use of tobacco is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancer. Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff. Eighty-five percent (85%) of head and neck cancer is linked to tobacco use. Secondhand smoke may also increase a person’s risk of developing head and neck cancer.
  • Frequent and heavy consumption of alcohol is a risk factor for head and neck cancer. Using alcohol and tobacco together increases this risk even more.

Other factors can raise a person’s risk of developing nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer.

  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer occur twice as often in men as in women.
  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer are most commonly found in people between the ages of 45 and 85.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). Research shows that infection with this virus is a risk factor for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer. Sexual activity with someone who has HPV is the most common way someone gets HPV. There are different types of HPV, called strains. Research links some HPV strains more strongly with certain types of cancers. There are vaccines available to protect you from some HPV strains.
  • Specific inhalants. Breathing in certain substances, most commonly found work environments, may increase the risk of developing nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer.
  • Exposure to air pollution. Being exposed to air pollution may increase a person’s risk of developing nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer.
  • Marijuana use. Recent research suggests that people who have used marijuana may be at higher risk for head and neck cancer.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.


How is sinus cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with a thorough history and physical examination. Imaging studies such as CT scan and MRI are usually done to stage the tumor locally and to check for the presence of metastases, or spread. CT scans are better for examination of the bony structures of the sinuses and skull base. MRI is preferred for defining soft tissue details, such as invasion of the dura (lining of the brain), or the brain itself. Biopsy of the tumor is necessary to make a final diagnosis. This can often be done in the office with topical or local anesthetic. Sometimes the biopsy needs to be done in a more controlled setting like an operating room, especially if there is a risk of bleeding.

How is sinus cancer treated?

Surgical therapy is the main treatment for most sinonasal tumors. Radiation may be used as well. Radiation may be used alone if the tumor cannot be removed surgically or in patients who cannot tolerate surgery. Combination therapy of surgery and radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy is given in specific situations.

Type of surgery will depend on the size and spread of the tumor and surgeon preference. Approaches can be external or endoscopic. Removal of sinonasal tumors can leave patients with facial disfigurement and speech and swallowing difficulties. Reconstructive surgery is often done to help with these problems, usually using tissue from elsewhere in the body.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sinus cancer?

Coping with physical side effects

Common physical side effects from each treatment option for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer are described in the Treatment Options section. Learn more about side effects of cancer and its treatment, along with ways to prevent or control them. Changes to your physical health depend on several factors, including the cancer’s stage, the length and dose of treatment, and your general health.

Sometimes, physical side effects can last after treatment ends. Doctors call these long-term side effects. They call side effects that occur months or years after treatment late effects. Treating long-term side effects and late effects is an important part of survivorship care. Learn more by reading the Follow-up Care section of this guide or talking with your doctor.

Coping with emotional and social effects

You can have emotional and social effects as well as physical effects after a cancer diagnosis. This may include dealing with difficult emotions, such as anxiety or anger, or managing your stress level. Sometimes, patients have problems expressing how they feel to their loved ones, or people don’t know what to say in return.

Patients and their families are encouraged to share their feelings with a member of their health care team. You can also find coping strategies for emotional and social effects in a separate section of this website. This section includes many resources for finding support and information to meet your needs.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: April 14, 2017 | Last Modified: April 14, 2017