Nasal and sinus cancer


Nasal and sinus cancer is a type of cancer that affects the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. It can be further divided into two categories – malignant tumors and benign tumors. Malignant tumors are those which spread to other parts of the body, while benign tumors are those which stay confined to one area. Signs and symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer include nosebleeds, persistent nasal congestion, persistent sinus infection, facial pain and swelling, vision problems, and difficulty breathing. Treatment for nasal and sinus cancer usually involves surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. Depending on the type and severity of the tumor, a combination of these treatments may be recommended.


The symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer vary depending on the location, size, and spread of the tumor. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Persistent nasal congestion or blockage
  • Recurring sinus infections
  • Nasal bleeding or discharge
  • Facial swelling, tenderness, or pain
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Throat pain or soreness
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain around the eyes
  • Double vision
  • Changes in speech or hearing


The exact cause of nasal and sinus cancers is unknown, however researchers have identified some factors that may increase the risk of developing these cancers. These include:

  1. Environmental factors: Exposure to occupational hazards such as wood dust, diesel exhaust, asbestos, nickel, and formaldehyde may increase the risk of developing nasal and sinus cancers.
  2. Smoking: An association between smoking and increased risk of developing some types of these cancers has been identified.
  3. HPV infection: Research has demonstrated an increased risk of developing olfactory neuroblastoma (a rare form of nasal and sinus cancer) with HPV infection.
  4. Radiation exposure: Receiving radiation therapy to the head and neck area has been linked to an increased risk of nasal and sinus cancer.
  5. Genetic factors: A few genetic syndromes have been linked to a greater risk of nasal and sinus cancer.
  6. Chronic or recurrent inflammation of the nasal cavity or sinuses: This chronic inflammation can increase the risk of developing some types of nasal and sinus cancer.

Risk factors

Risk factors for nasal and sinus cancer include:

  • Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other forms of tobacco
  • Exposure to industrial chemicals such as formaldehyde, wood dust, nickel, and chromium
  • A history of radiation treatment to the head and neck area
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis and frequent use of medication to treat sinus infections
  • A family history of nasal and sinus cancer
  • Being male (it’s more common in men than in women)
  • Being over 60 years old
  • A human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Having a weakened immune system due to an organ transplant, HIV, or chemotherapy.


Nasal and sinus cancer is usually diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, imaging tests, and biopsy. A physical exam may involve a nasendoscopy, which is when a lighted instrument is passed through the nose to examine the inside of the nose and sinuses. Imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans, may be used to take pictures of the inside of the nose and sinuses. A biopsy may be performed to take samples of the abnormal cells, which can then be analyzed under a microscope to determine the type of cancer.


The main two subtypes of Nasal and Sinus cancer are:

  1. Squamous cell carcinoma: This is the most common type of Nasal and Sinus cancer and occurs when the cells lining the sinus cavities become cancerous. It typically affects areas around the roof of the nose, the nasal cavity and the maxillary sinuses.
  2. Adenocarcinoma: This type of nasal and sinus cancer occurs when the glandular tissues of the sinus cavities become cancerous. It usually affects the middle of the nose, the ethmoid sinuses, and the maxillary sinuses.

Other more rare subtypes of Nasal and Sinus cancer include:

  1. Sarcoma: This type of cancer is much rarer than the other two and can affect any of the sinus lining tissues, but is most commonly seen in the maxillary sinuses.
  2. Melanoma: This type of cancer is very rare but can occur in any of the sinus cavities, including the nasal cavity and the maxillary sinuses.
  3. Neuroendocrine carcinoma: This is a rare and aggressive type of cancer, and can occur anywhere in the maxillary, ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses.
  4. Esthesioneuroblastoma: This is a rare cancer that occurs in the upper part of the nose, near the front of the brain.


The treatment options for Nasal and Sinus Cancer vary depending on the stage, type, and size of the tumor. Generally, treatment may include one or a combination of the following:

  1. Surgery: Depending on the stage, type, and size of the tumor, surgery may be used to remove any visible portions of the tumor.
  2. Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy may be used to eradicate any residual cancer cells after surgery or to shrink tumors before or after surgery.
  3. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy may be used in combination with radiation or surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  4. Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a newer treatment option that helps to stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.
  5. Targeted Therapy: Targeted Therapy may also be used to target specific cancer cells and inhibit their growth.

Additionally, there are other supportive treatments such as physical therapy, dietary changes, and emotional support that may be recommended depending on the individual patient’s needs.


Some ways to reduce the risk of nasal and sinus cancer include:

  1. Avoiding exposure to certain types of radiation, such as x-rays and gamma radiation.
  2. Avoiding exposure to certain types of chemicals, such as formaldehyde and asbestos.
  3. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other nutrients.
  4. Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke.
  5. Limiting alcohol consumption.
  6. Practicing healthy hygiene habits such as washing your hands regularly and avoiding exposure to germs and other airborne contaminants.
  7. Having regular check-ups with a healthcare professional to monitor any changes in the nose or sinuses.
  8. Avoiding activities that increase your risk of trauma to the nose and sinuses, such as contact sports.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of nasal and sinus cancer. In general, men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with nasal and sinus cancer, and overall, men are more likely to have an aggressive course and worse prognosis than women. Men are also more likely to present with advanced stage disease and more likely to have metastatic disease to other sites than women. Furthermore, men may have higher rates of recurrence and poorer overall survival than women. Additionally, men are more likely to have a co-existing smoking or alcohol use disorder at the time of diagnosis, which can further compound their treatment and prognosis. As such, gender-specific considerations should be taken into account when managing patients with nasal and sinus cancer.


Nutrition plays a key role in managing nasal and sinus cancers, as it helps to maintain the body’s nutritional balance and optimal functioning. Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and grains and starches can help to boost energy levels, maintain normal weight, strengthen the immune system, and provide key nutrients and antioxidants needed to fight off cancer and other illnesses. Additionally, maintaining adequate fluid intake is important to keep the mucous membranes of the nose and sinus passages moist and healthy, which can help reduce the risk of infection and other complications. Proper nutrition can also help support the body during cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Physical Activity

Physical activity has not been directly linked to an increased or decreased risk of developing nasal and sinus cancer. However, exercise has been linked to positive outcomes when battling cancer, including an improved prognosis. Regular physical activity during and after cancer treatment has been shown to reduce fatigue, improve physical function, and has been associated with improved quality of life. Exercise may also be beneficial in helping to manage symptoms and side effects associated with cancer treatments. Exercise can also help to reduce stress, improve mental well-being, boost self-esteem, and reduce overall fatigue. While physical activity does not have a direct link to reducing risk of nasal and sinus cancer, it may help to improve overall health and quality of life for those battling the disease.

Further Reading


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