Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer

Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer


The nose opens into the two passages of the nasal cavity. The nasal cavity helps warm and moisten incoming air, along with sinuses called paranasal because they surround the nose.

While doctors are not exactly sure why humans have sinuses, one of the theories is that they help the voice project, lighten the skull’s weight and provide a frame for the face and eyes. There are four sets of sinuses:

  • Maxilliary: at the cheeks
  • Frontal: above the eyebrows
  • Sphenoid: behind the nose and between the eyes
  • Ethmoid: above the nose and between the eyes

Cancer can develop in several different types of nasal and sinus cells:

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This is the most common type of nasal and sinus cancer, and forms in thin, flat cells lining the sinuses and nasal cavity.
  • Melanoma: It starts in melanocyte cells that give skin its color.
  • Sarcoma: It begins in muscle or connective tissue.
  • Midline granulomas: They develop in tissue in the middle of the face.

Diagnosing nasal and sinus cancer requires advanced imaging and doctors who are experienced in reading the scans, so they can plan treatment as accurately as possible.

Polyps and Other Nasal Growths

A doctor may find an abnormal growth (polyp) or wart (papilloma) inside the sinuses or nasal cavity. While polyps aren't cancer, a doctor may still need to remove them or treat them with medicine when they're large and causing problems. Papillomas are also removed because they could become cancerous.

Our approach

Nasal and sinus cancers start near other sensitive organs like the eyes, brain and mouth, and they’re often not caught until after it has spread.

Nasal and sinus cancer is treatable with the right expertise, which is why it's so important to find a group of doctors who know how to treat the cancer most effectively, using the latest research.

Caring for Nasal and Sinus Tumors with a Team Approach

The multidisciplinary team meets weekly to discuss cases, bringing together experts in various specialties from across Northwell Health. That ensures each patient receives the most useful, appropriate and up-to-date treatments. While an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist or ENT) will coordinate care, the nasal and sinus team also includes other Northwell Health experts.

The doctors have years of experience with nasal and sinus cancer and use the latest tools and tests — meaning they can quickly make an accurate diagnosis. Once they've made their determination, expert specialists create a tailored treatment plan. Team members are there for patients every step of the way, always ready to answer questions, consult on difficult decisions and address worries.

Risk factors

While the cause of nasal and sinus cancer is unknown, researchers have identified a few risk factors that could increase the chances of getting the disease:

  • Chemical or dust exposure at work: includes jobs like furniture- or shoemaking; baking; and sawmill, metal-plating and carpentry work
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Being a male over 40
  • Smoking


Nasal and sinus cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage, so it’s important to get medical attention right away. Symptoms can include:

  • Sinus pressure or blocks
  • Sinus headache or pain
  • A runny nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • A lump or sore inside the nose that won’t heal
  • A lump on the face or roof of the mouth
  • Facial numbness or tingling
  • Swelling or other eye trouble, such as double vision
  • Ear pain or pressure
  • Teeth that are loose or hurt, or changes in the way dentures fit

Just because someone has these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean that they have nasal or sinus cancer. See a doctor to determine what the cause of symptoms.


Specialists use diagnostic tools to identify nasal and sinus cancer, including:

  • Physical exam - Looking into the nose for abnormalities, and feeling the face and neck for lumps or swollen lymph nodes
  • Dental consultation
  • X-rays - Taking images of the body
  • CT (CAT) scan - Putting together X-rays from different angles, with dye sometimes injected into veins or swallowed
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) - Using a magnet, radio waves and a computer to take detailed pictures of the inside of the body
  • Biopsy - Removing cells or tissue and examining them with a microscope
  • Nasoscopy - Using a thin scope to look inside the nose
  • Laryngoscopy - Inserting a special scope or small mirror to examine the larynx (voice box)

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