Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer

Nasal and sinus cancers

Nasal and sinus cancers affect the nasal cavity and the sinuses around the nose, which are known as paranasal sinuses. There are many pairs of sinuses in the area around the nose and cancer can develop in any of them. Cancer that affects the nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses is known as nasal and paranasal sinus cancer. The area where the nose and throat meet is known as the nasopharynx; cancer that occurs in this area is known as nasopharyngeal cancer, which is different to nasal and paranasal sinus cancer. Nasal and sinus cancers are rare and only 450 cases of the disease are diagnosed in the UK each year.

What causes nasal and sinus cancer?

The exact cause of nasal and sinus cancers is unknown, though some risk factors have been acknowledged. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to certain chemicals (including wood dust, nickel and formaldehyde)

Symptoms of nasal and sinus cancers

Symptoms generally affect the nose and eyes and may include:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Impaired sense of smell
  • Feeling like one side of the nose is blocked
  • Mucus coming from the nose
  • One bulging eye
  • Partial (or complete in some cases) loss of sight
  • Pain around the eye
  • Double vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Pain or numbness in the face
  • Difficulty opening the jaw

How are nasal and sinus cancers diagnosed?

Many of the symptoms associated with nasal and sinus cancers are caused by mild health conditions. However, it is worth getting them checked out, especially if your symptoms persist. Your GP will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms and if they there is a chance you have cancer they will refer you to a specialist for further assessment. At the hospital tests including a nasoendoscopy, panendoscopy and a fine needle aspiration will be carried out and the results of the test will be used to confirm diagnosis.

How are nasal and sinus cancers treated?

The type of treatment will depend on a number of factors, including the stage of cancer and if the cancer has extended. Treatments that can be used to treat nasal and sinus cancers include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Early diagnosis and treatment increases the chance of curing the cancer.

What is the outlook for nasal and sinus cancers?

As with the many other variations of cancer, the outlook for nasal and sinus cancer depends on whether the cancer has spread and how advanced the cancer is when a diagnosis is compiled. If the cancer is diagnosed early the survival stats are much higher. Between 50 and 60 percent of people diagnosed with nasal and sinus cancers will live on for at least 5 years after their initial diagnosis.

Living with nasal and sinus cancers

Living with cancer can be very difficult and you may experience a host of different emotions, as you struggle to acknowledge your diagnosis. Your care team will provide for all divisions of your medical care, but they can also offer emotional support and practical help. You can also contact the cancer charities offering support in the UK.

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