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Nasal and sinus tumors can be benign (harmless) or cancerous tumors that occur in the nose or sinuses.
Cancerous nasal cavity or sinus tumors are rare, with only about 2,000 being diagnosed in the United States each year, and they vary greatly in location, size and type. Most of these types of tumors (60 to 70 percent) occur in the maxillary sinus, while 20 to 30 percent are in the nasal cavity and 10 to 15 percent are in the ethmoid sinuses. Cancer in the sphenoid or frontal sinuses is extremely rare, accounting for only 5 percent of such cancers.
The exact causes of nasal and sinus cancers are not known. Men are more likely to develop nasal and sinus cancer than women. Nasal and sinus cancers are more common in people who handle or breathe in certain chemicals, like chromium, nickel, or formaldehyde for many years. Other factors, like smoking, can also increase the risk of developing nasal and sinus cancers.
Surgery is the main treatment used to treat nasal and sinus cancers. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink a large tumor. Often they are given after you have had surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.
Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers are usually found because of signs or symptoms a person is having. If your doctor suspects you might have cancer of the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses, you will be referred to an otolaryngologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, and throat; also known as an ENT doctor), who will more thoroughly examine your nasal passages and the rest of your head and neck area. The ENT specialist will take a complete medical history and examine your head and neck, nasal and sinus areas (looking inside the nose with a small scope called an endoscope). If there is any suspicion of a tumor (mass or growth), imaging studies are performed and may include CT scan, MRI scan and in certain situations PET-CT scan. If a tumor is found on imaging then typically a biopsy is performed to determine exactly what sort of growth is present. A biopsy involves taking a small sample of the suspect tissue. This can be done either in the clinic or the operating room depending on the circumstances. A biopsy is important to determine exactly what kind of tumor is present and whether it is cancerous or benign (harmless). There are a number of different types of sinus and nasal tumors and many are treated differently.
In creating your treatment plan, the most important factors to consider are the type, location, and the stage (extent) of the cancer. Your cancer care team will also take into account your general state of health and your personal preferences. Treatment for nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer may include:
Different treatment options may be used alone or in combination. For early stage cancer, surgery may be all that is needed. For more advanced cancer, other treatments like radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy may be needed in addition to or instead of surgery. Based on the treatment options, you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team (often called a multi-disciplinary team). These doctors may include:
Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.
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