Youth Cancer

Cancer of the Paranasal Sinus

The paranasal sinuses are the spaces within the bones behind the nose and cheeks and nasal cavity.

Its main function, through the production of mucus, is to moisten the air we breathe and prevent our noses from drying out.


What causes cancer of the paranasal sinus?

The exact cause of paranasal sinus cancer is unknown. There are a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing paranasal sinus cancer.

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to wood dust


What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of paranasal sinus cancer include:

  • Blocked sinuses that persist
  • Pain behind the nose
  • Pain in the upper teeth
  • Unexplained swelling around the eyes

TIP: If you have any of these symptoms you should have them checked by your doctor - but remember, they are common to many illnesses other than paranasal sinus cancer.


How is it diagnosed?

After visiting your GP you will probably be referred to a hospital for some tests. These may include:

  • X-rays
  • Nasopharyngoscopy: A fine tube with a light at the end (nasendoscope) is guided through the nose into the sinus area. Tissue is then biopsied for pathology.
  • MRI
  • CT scan

If the results of the test show the presence of paranasal sinus cancer a referral will be made to a doctor for treatment.


How is it treated?

The team of doctors and other staff at the hospital will plan treatment. It will depend on the size of the tumour and where it is. Treatment may be undertaken by an oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy) and a radiologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiation) and a surgeon.

Treatment may involve:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy


Surgery for paranasal sinus cancer

The aim of surgery is to remove the tumour. Surgery can sometimes be quite extensive, and in some cases skin grafts or flaps are needed. Prosthetics are also available if required.

For more information go to our surgery  fact sheet


Radiotherapy for paranasal sinus cancer

Radiotherapy may be used alone, as well as post operative treatment. Its aim is to destroy small cancerous areas not be removed in surgery.

Side effects may involve eye irritations (conjunctivitis), dry eyes and headaches.

For more information go to our radiotherapy fact sheet


Chemotherapy for paranasal sinus cancer

Chemotherapy is rarely used in the treatment of paranasal sinus cancer.

For more information go to our chemotherapy fact sheet.