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Nasal and sinus cancer occur when cancerous (malignant) cells grow inside the nose (nasal cavity) or in the paranasal sinuses (small, hollow spaces around the nose). Cancerous tumors may occur less frequently in the sinonasal cavity (space between the eye and upper jaw) or the base of the skull.
The head and neck cancer team at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute has years of expertise treating routine to complex nasal and sinus tumors. Our treatments are the latest, most comprehensive treatments, including minimally invasive surgery and precisely targeted radiation therapy.
Nasal and Sinus Cancer: Expert Care at Henry Ford
Our team has dedicated their careers to treating head and neck cancers, including nasal cancer and paranasal sinus cancers, giving them a unique depth of expertise in the head and neck area.
Patients come to Henry Ford because of our specialization in nasal and sinus cancer, including:
- Specialized treatments: We use sophisticated surgical procedures to access the small spaces of the nasal and sinus area. We have one of the most experienced programs in the country for stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), a minimally invasive technique that targets radiation carefully to spare healthy tissue. Read more about nasal and sinus cancer treatment.
- Collaborative approach: Our team of surgeons, medical doctors, otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialists) and speech and swallowing therapists collaborates closely to provide expert medical care and emotional support for you and your loved ones. Meet our team.
- Patient support: Our team is here to support you before, during and after treatment. We connect you with others who understand what you are going through and help you manage the side effects of treatment. Find out more about our patient support services.
Risk Factors for Nasal and Sinus Cancer
Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancers make up just 1% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States each year, totaling about 1,500 cases per year. Nasal and sinus cancer occurs more often in men than in women, and most often in Caucasian people.
Most people diagnosed with nasal or sinus cancer are over age 45 and have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Exposure to chemicals or dust: People who are exposed to chemicals or dust are at higher risk of developing nasal cancer. This includes people who work in woodworking, sawmills, furniture-making, metal-plating, bakeries or mills or shoe-making.
- Smoking: People who smoke have increased risk of nasal cancer. Get information about Henry Ford’s tobacco treatment services.
- Infection with HPV (human papillomavirus): HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. It is the same virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer, although physicians may diagnose HPV-caused nasal and sinus cancer in men.
Symptoms of Nasal or Sinus Cancer
The first symptoms of nasal or sinus cancer might feel like a cold or sinus infection, such as nasal congestion or sinus pain.
Symptoms may include:
- Nasal congestion and obstruction or discharge
- Difficulty breathing
- Recurring sinus infections
- A feeling of pressure in the middle of the face
- A lump or sore that doesn't heal inside the nose
- A lump on the face or the roof of the mouth
- Pain in the sinus region or upper teeth
- Swelling or other trouble with the eyes
- Dentures fitting poorly, or upper teeth feeling loose or numb
If any of these symptoms do not go away, it is important to schedule an appointment with a head and neck cancer expert for an accurate nasal cancer diagnosis.
Nasal and Sinus Cancer Diagnosis at Henry Ford
Some tumors of the nasal cavity and sinuses are cancerous while others are benign (not cancer). To check for possible cancer on the interior of the nose and sinuses, a physician may use tests including:
- Physical examination of the nose and face: The doctor will look for lumps, swollen lymph nodes or anything else that is unusual. We may use a small mirror to look inside the nose.
- Biopsy: A biopsy takes a sample of suspicious cells for laboratory examination. In the lab, scientists can determine if cancer is present and needs treatment.
- Imaging, such as X-ray, MRI or CT scan: We may order tests to take pictures of the inside of your body. These tests might include a CT (computed tomography) scan, X-rays or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
- Nasoscopy: Doctors can insert a nasoscope – a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing – into the nose. Using a tool on the nasoscope, we can remove a tissue sample to be checked for cancer in a lab.
- PET scan or bone scan: To learn whether cancer has spread in your body, we may order a PET (positron emission tomography) scan or a bone scan. These tests use a mild radioactive substance to check the function of your cells and tissues.
Staging Nasal and Sinus Cancer
One step in effective diagnosis of nasal and sinus cancer is identifying the cancer’s stage or the size of the cancer and whether it has spread. The stage helps doctors choose the best treatment option for you.
The specific staging is complex and depends on where in the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses the tumor is located. In general, however, doctors classify nasal and sinus cancer in these stages:
- Stage 0: Physicians identify cancer that has not yet spread. This is also called carcinoma in situ.
- Stage I: Cancer has formed in one area and may have spread into nearby bone.
- Stage II: The tumor is in two areas and may have spread into nearby bone.
- Stage III: A stage III tumor has spread, either into nearby bone or other organs or to one or more lymph nodes on the same side of the neck.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread to more lymph nodes and to other parts of the head or elsewhere in the body. Doctors classify Stage IV tumors as IVA, IVB or IVC, depending on the size and where cancer cells are located.