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.