While nose and sinus cancers are rare, Duke’s team of specialists regularly diagnose and treat these complex tumors. Our expertise has given hope to people who were told their tumors were inoperable or untreatable. Using advanced techniques and collaborating with colleagues who specialize in each step of the process, we treat your cancer while also prioritizing your quality of life.
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.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
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.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cancer program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.
Why Choose Duke
Determining the exact type of nose or sinus tumor is critical to creating a treatment plan that gives you the best chance of success. Our pathologists are subspecialized -- meaning they have received additional training -- in identifying these rare types of head and neck cancers.
Patient Navigators Coordinate Your Care
Our skull base tumor patient navigators guide you through your treatment step-by-step. They help schedule appointments, coordinate visits, communicate your test results, and prepare you for surgery. And they are available to answer all of your questions along the way.
Team Approach to Care
Nasal and paranasal tumors affect more than just the nose and sinuses. That’s why we work with a team of subspecialists to ensure we are considering every aspect of your health and well-being. Our head and neck experts meet as a group weekly to discuss the details of your case and agree on next steps.
Advanced Surgical Options
Research shows that hospitals and surgeons who perform more surgeries tend to have better outcomes. You'll be among others from around the region and beyond who travel to Duke for sinus cancer care. When people have particularly complicated cases -- for example, tumors that affect the carotid artery (the main vessel supplying blood to the brain) -- we’ve offered solutions that other centers couldn’t.