Cancer of the Nose and Sinuses

Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers tend to develop most often in patients who smoke, have a family history of cancer, or are frequently exposed to carcinogens as part of their job.

Common symptoms include:

  • Nasal decongestion
  • Facial pain
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Nosebleeds
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Watery eyes
  • Vision loss

If cancer is suspected, your doctor will perform diagnostic tests including biopsies, endoscopy, or CT scan to diagnose and stage your condition. Treatment usually involves removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue. Surgery is often performed in addition to chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to ensure complete removal. The location of each patient’s tumor is essential in determining whether or not surgery is possible.

Cancer of the Nose and Sinuses Treatments



Two of the key weapons in the fight against cancer, chemotherapy and radiation both set out to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy uses drugs that target rapidly dividing cells, a key feature of cancerous tissue. In addition to cancer cells, there are fast-dividing normal cells in the body, such as in hair follicles and the digestive system.

The active chemotherapy medicines – called cytotoxic, anti-neoplastic drugs – can’t distinguish between rapidly dividing cells, resulting in many of the side effects that are common to treatment. Radiation treatment, also known as radiotherapy, kills cancer cells by damaging the DNA of the tumor tissue. Radiation passes through the body to be absorbed by a tumor, causing the damage that kills the cancer cells. Different types of radiotherapy match the different types of tumors, so there are options for treatment that minimize damage to healthy tissue through precise targeting. This limits side effects to the treatment locations, though radiotherapy also causes fatigue as an overall effect.

Excision of Cancer

Treatment for cancers of the nose and sinuses often includes surgery to remove cancerous tissue and, usually, some surrounding tissue. Given that the areas around the nose and sinuses have many important blood vessels and nerves, and given the proximity of the eyes, mouth, and brain, surgery in this area requires planning and care.

Goals of surgery are to both remove the necessary tissue, while preserving the appearance of the face and system functions, such as breathing, eating, and speech. Excisions in the nose and sinus area are complex and require a surgeon who specializes in the procedures. Fortunately, cancers in these areas are rare.