About Nose and Sinus Cancers
Although the nose is small, it houses many different types of cells that can turn into many different types of tumors, including:
- Adenoid cystic carcinomas
- Esthesioneuroblastomas (also called olfactory neuroblastomas)
- Mucoepidermoid tumors
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Undifferentiated carcinoma
Most nose and sinus tumors are types of skull base tumors -- growths on or near the bones that support the brain. Nasal and paranasal tumors are challenging to treat because they can invade the brain, the eye, and other important nearby structures, like nerves that control your sense of smell and sight. As a result, they can cause a wide range of symptoms like nosebleeds, facial pain, numbness or weakness, trouble breathing through the nose, loss of vision or smell, headaches, and stroke.
Nose and Sinus Cancer Tests
If your doctor or otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) suspects a nasal or paranasal tumor, certain tests will help determine your diagnosis. In addition to reviewing your medical history and conducting a thorough physical exam, your doctor may order one or more of these tests.
X-ray, MRI, CT, and PET scans help your doctors determine the tumor’s location and size, and whether cancer has spread to any other part of the body. Some scans may require contrast dye, given via an injection. Results will be reviewed by neuroradiologists who specialize in interpreting images of the head and neck.
A surgeon uses a needle to remove a small piece of the tumor. Then the sample is sent to a specialized head and neck pathologist for testing. The pathologist will examine the tissue to determine whether it is cancerous (malignant), its grade (how it compares to normal tissue), what kind of tumor it is, and other important factors. Depending on the tumor’s location, a biopsy may be performed in a doctor’s office with local numbing or in an operating room with general anesthesia. Certain tumors may not be reachable for biopsy without surgery.
By analyzing your genes, doctors may be able to learn more about your specific tumor and whether it might respond to chemotherapy or other targeted therapies.
Nose and Sinus Cancer Treatments
Most nasal and paranasal tumors are treated with a combination of surgery and radiation therapy. However, different types of tumors respond best to certain therapies. We offer a range of treatments to offer you the best option.
There are two main surgical approaches for nose and sinus cancers. If the tumor isn’t too deep inside the skull, surgeons may be able to reach it through the nostrils using an endoscope -- a hollow, flexible tube. Because this technique requires no external incisions, it leaves little or no visible scarring and significantly speeds recovery time. If the tumor can’t be reached endoscopically, your surgeons may use a traditional open incision. This will require a longer hospital stay, around three days.
Because of the complexity of these procedures, various specialty surgeons may be involved, including head and neck surgeons, sinus specialists, neurosurgeons, and oculoplastic surgeons. If surgery could alter your appearance, our plastic and reconstructive surgeons and endoprosthesis experts can work with you to devise a plan to restore it.
Used to destroy cancer cells, shrink tumors, and reduce the risk of recurrence, radiation therapy may be recommended before or after surgery. A radiation oncologist will create a treatment plan that targets your cancer while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
Chemotherapy can be offered alone or before surgery to shrink the tumor or to determine how the tumor responds to chemotherapy, since not all tumors are affected by it. Chemotherapy may be best suited for tumors that are very close to the eye or invading the brain, making surgery very risky. It is also best for certain types of cancer and based on previous treatments.
Immunotherapy uses your body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. This treatment is typically reserved for cancers that are too difficult to remove surgically or that have already spread (metastasized) to other areas of the body.