Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers are malignant (cancerous) growths in the tissue behind the nose and in the sinuses. They are highly treatable if caught early, because of their location.

Risk Factors

No one knows why cells grow out of control and form nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer. There are certain risk factors, though:

  • Exposure to certain workplace chemicals or dust
  • Gender (males have a higher risk)
  • Age (older than 40)
  • History of smoking


Symptoms of nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers may include:

  • Nose bleeds
  • Runny nose that does not go away
  • Trouble breathing from the nose
  • Swelling behind the eye or in the cheeks
  • Sore throat
  • Sinus pressure, with or without headaches
  • Earaches
  • Lumps in the mouth or neck

Other condition can also cause these symptoms, so it’s important to see a doctor right away.


To make a diagnosis, our doctors:

  • Take a full medical history
  • Perform a complete head and neck exam
  • Possibly remove a small amount of the tumor during a biopsy, for further study
  • Potentially run lab and imaging tests, including:
    • X-ray
    • MRI
    • CT (CAT) scan
    • PET scan
    • Nasal endoscopy: uses a long flexible instrument (a nasal endoscope) with a light and camera, and may be combined with a biopsy

These exams and tests help the doctor determine:

  • The type of cancer and its stage
  • How aggressive it is
  • Whether it has spread
  • How best to treat it


Treatment options for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer depend on:

  • The cancer’s type and stage
  • The tumor’s size and location
  • Whether the cancer has returned
  • Your age and general health

Surgery is one of the main treatments for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer, and our skilled doctors take a minimally invasive, endoscopic approach whenever possible.

Tumors are also treated frequently with radiation, either by itself or with surgery. Depending on the tumor’s location and stage, chemotherapy is occasionally combined with radiation. Our clinical trials include chemotherapy before or after other treatments, newer ways to deliver radiation and targeted therapy. 

Sinus Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Reconstruction

If we do need to remove a larger amount of tissue and/or bone during cancer surgery, we bring in one of our skilled plastic surgeons for restoration work.

Follow-Up Care

Patients who have had nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer are at risk of developing a second head or neck cancer, and our doctors also want to catch any original cancer that might return. After treatment, they will ask you to come in for regular checkups, as frequently as once a month for the first year.

Make an Appointment

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a cancer care specialist, call 301-774-8962.

Ways to Help

Oncology Patient and Family Advisory Council

Meet Our Cancer Care Specialists

Cancer Treatment Clinical Trials

Putting research to the test through this new partnership, our patients have access to cutting-edge technology and novel therapeutics that hold promise for the advancement of medicine and patient care. We provide seamless, coordinated care for our patients who choose to participate in one or more cancer treatment studies. Learn more about clinical trials available through the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.