Sinus Cancer
How to Allay Your Fears of developing This Disease

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Sinus Cancer – Overview

Nearly everyone on the planet suffers from sinusitis; some occasionally and others frequently.

However, if you’re worried about nasal cavity cancer, relax – this disease is extremely rare, so your chances of developing it are close to zero.

Having said that, if you’re concerned enough to be reading this article, you owe yourself a favor – put your demons to rest by seeing an Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist at your earliest convenience.


What are the Symptoms of Sinus Cancer?

In the early stages the more subtle symptoms of sinus cancer are hardly noticeable.

The most common early warning signals are persistent nosebleeds. These can be occurrences of blood-streaked nasal mucus, or they can manifest as gushers – and anything in between.

Other early symptoms to look for are:

  • Persistent sinus toothache.
  • A constant stuffy or runny nose or blocked sinuses that will not clear.
  • Swelling around the eyes.
  • Pain behind the nose.
  • Numbness of the cheek, upper lip, upper teeth or side of the nose.
  • Persistent headaches.
  • Speach changes.
  • Double vision.
Bear in mind that sinus cancer growths are bound to effect adjacent tissue. Therefore, a growth can impinge on:
  1. A facial nerve causing numbness, tingling or pain.
  2. A tear duct, causing excessive tearing.
  3. An optic nerve or eye muscle, causing blurred or double vision, and sometimes squinting.
  4. The eustachian tube, causing inability to clear the ears, together with impaired hearing.
Other factors:
  • Large tumors may cause obvious facial lumps or deformities.
  • They can deform the upper jaw causing misaligned teeth, or if you wear dentures, the uppers may no longer mesh correctly with the lowers.
  • A tumor in the maxillary sinus may cause upper jaw toothache and/or loosened teeth.
  • A lump or sore that will not heal may form inside the nose.
  • A lump on the roof of the mouth (palate) may become noticeable.


What Causes Sinus Cancer?

The exact causes are the subject of ongoing clinical research and debate.

However, exposure to sawdust, flour dust, metals such as chromium and nickel, and certain chemicals are considered risk factors.

“Added risk” occupations are:

  1. Furniture manufacturing.

  2. Interior unventilated building construction or remodeling.
  3. Woodwork and carpentry.
  4. Sawmill work.
  5. Leatherwork and shoemaking.
  6. Chromium and nickel electroplating.
  7. Flour mill or bakery work.
  8. Being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).
There is also a higher than normal risk involved if you use tobacco, snort illegal drugs, and/or if you happen to be a male over the age of 40.

Please note: The above conditions or occupations do not mean that you are going to develop cancer sooner or later; they merely point to an above normal risk factor. Nevertheless, if you are the slightest bit concerned, discuss the actual risks involved with your doctor.



If sinus cancer is suspected, your doctor will carry out a specialized physical examination as follows:

  • During the physical examination s/he will pay particular attention to unusual lumps, discoloration and/or visible growths. The doctor will also check your general health, medical history, habits, past illnesses, injuries, surgery and treatments received.
  • S/he will then use an endoscope, a nasoscope, or a small long-handled mirror to examine the insides of the nasal passages for anything abnormal.
  • The doctor will also check for lumps on the face and/or swollen lymph nodes on the neck, armpit and groin.
  • If s/he considers it necessary, head and chest X-rays and possibly an MRI or CT scan may be called for.
  • If there is further cause for concern, s/he will send a small tissue sample from the inside of your nose to the laboratory for a cancer biopsy.
  • Finally, the physician may call for diagnostic blood-work.



Cancer treatment depends on two major factors:

  1. The location of the cancer.
  2. Whether it has metastasized (spread) to the lymph nodes or other organs.
If the cancer has not metastasized, and if it is accessible, radiation therapy would be the first step, followed by surgery to remove the tumor.

If the cancer is inoperable, then the following could be considered:

  • Chemotherapy.
  • Electrodessication (cooking the tumor with an electric charge).
  • Cryotherapy where the tumor is frozen with liquid nitrogen.



The most common type of sinus and nasal cavity cancer is called "Squamous Cell Carcinoma."

This malignancy forms in the thin flat squamous cells that make up the mucous membrane lining both the paranasal sinuses and the nasal cavity. This type of cancer often responds to radiation therapy.

However, other types of cancer may be involved… some more virulent than others.

The word “prognosis” means “chances of recovery”. This depends on the following:

  • Where the tumor is situated.
  • The type of cancer.
  • The size of the tumor.
  • Whether adjacent tissues are involved.
  • The patient's age and general health.
  • Whether it’s a first time occurrence or a recurring cancer.

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