Benign & Malignant Tumors of the Nose & Sinuses

Both benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tumors can occur in the nose or the sinuses, the air-filled pockets in the bones of the face and skull near the nose. Cancerous nasal cavity or sinus tumors are rare, with only about 2,000 cases in the United States each year. 60-70% of these types of tumors occur in the maxillary sinus in the cheek, while 20-30% are in the nasal cavity and 10-15% are in the ethmoid sinuses on either side of the nose.

Causes of Nasal & Sinus Tumors

The cause of sinus and nasal cancers is unknown, but there are certain risk factors that increase your chance of developing them. These include:

  • Gender - Men are more likely to get sinus cancer than women.
  • Age - The most common age for diagnosis of the condition is in the 50s and 60s.
  • Tobacco use - Smoking and other tobacco use are major risk factors.
  • Environment - Exposure to dusts from wood, leather or textiles and inhaling vapors from glue, formaldehyde, solvents, nickel, chromium, rubbing alcohol and radium appears to increase the risk of such cancers.

Symptoms of Nasal & Sinus Tumors

Many sinus or nasal cancers exhibit no symptoms, making it hard to determine if a tumor is present. Certain prolonged symptoms may indicate cancer, including:

  • Persistent nasal congestion, especially on one side
  • Pain in the forehead, cheek, nose or around the eyes or ear
  • Post-nasal drip at the back of the throat
  • Pain or numbness in the face or teeth
  • Frequent and persistent nosebleeds
  • A growth in the face, nose, palate or neck
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Runny eyes
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Difficulty hearing

Diagnosis of Nasal & Sinus Tumors

Your doctor can review your medical history and do a physical exam of the head and neck if you suspect you have a nasal or tumor cancer. A small fiber-optic scope may be used to see into the nasal cavity and sinuses.

If cancer is suspected, the team of ENT (ear, nose and throat) oncologists at Tampa General Hospital can provide comprehensive diagnostic services for nasal and sinus tumors, including:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)

An endoscope can be used to biopsy the suspected mass, either using local or general anesthesia. The removed sample is then analyzed to determine whether it is cancerous or not.

Treatment for Nasal & Sinus Tumors

Cancer in the nasal cavity or sinuses may be treated with:
  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

If the tumor is small, it can often be removed using an endoscopic, minimally invasive approach. If a tumor has spread into the cheek, eye, brain, nerves or other key structures in the skull, an open surgical approach is often required.