The nasal cavity and surrounding sinuses assist in maintaining the functionality and structure of the head and neck area. Lined with a layer of mucous tissue, the nasal cavity and sinuses are susceptible to abnormal cell development, which can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors. Malignant cancers of the nose and sinuses are, however, quite rare. When they do occur, they are most often composed of squamous cells, and do not often metastasize. Nonetheless, any malignant growth in the nose or sinuses must be removed.

Causes Of Cancer Of The Nose And Sinuses

Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers tend to develop most often in those who smoke, have a family history of cancer, or are frequently exposed to chemicals or other irritants at home or in the workplace. Exposure to the following substances increases the risk for nasal and sinus cancer:

  • House dust
  • Sawdust
  • Chromium
  • Nickel
  • Formaldehyde
  • Cloth fibers

There is also evidence that radiotherapy for retinoblastoma is a serious risk factor for the development of nasal or sinus cancer.

Symptoms Of Cancer Of The Nose And Sinuses

Some of the symptoms of nose or sinus cancer are the same as those of upper respiratory infections, severe allergies and sinus infections. These symptoms may include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Facial pain
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Drainage of thick mucus from the nose
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Visual disturbance
  • Blockage of one side of the nose
  • Tooth pain

A worsening of these symptoms, and the presence of one or more of the following symptoms, may indicate a tumor. A tumor may or may not be malignant, but should always be checked for a definitive diagnosis. More serious symptoms that may indicate nasal or sinus cancer include:

  • Facial numbness
  • Numbness or loosening of teeth
  • Pain or pressure in one of the ears
  • Constantly watery eyes
  • Bulging of one eye
  • Loss of vision
  • Growth or mass of the face, nose or palate
  • Trouble opening the mouth
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck

Diagnosis Of Cancer Of The Nose And Sinuses

If nasal or paranasal sinus cancer is suspected, a thorough physical examination of the head, neck, nose, throat and sinuses will be performed by an otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT doctor. The doctor will be careful to note areas of numbness or pain on the face or in the neck, feel for swollen lymph nodes, check for visual changes, and assess the symmetry of the face.

Part of this examination will likely include the use of a nasal endoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a lighted tip, which enables a doctor to see the upper nasal cavity and sinuses. If a malignancy is suspected, various visualization tests, including X-rays, CT scans or MRI scans, may be administered. A biopsy of any suspicious tissue growth may be taken for laboratory analysis.

Treatment Of Cancer Of The Nose And Sinuses

Treatment for cancer of the nose or sinuses usually involves surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. It may be performed in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to ensure complete eradication of the cancer. The location of a tumor is essential in determining whether or not surgery is possible. Other treatments for malignancies of the nose and sinuses may include radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

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