Symptoms of nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer

Cancer in the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses usually doesn't cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. This is because the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses are large spaces that allow a tumour to grow. Signs and symptoms often appear as the tumour grows into surrounding tissues. Because nasal and paranasal sinus cancer is not very common, other health conditions, such as a deviated septum or allergies, can cause the same symptoms as nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer.

The most common symptom of nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer is a stuffy, blocked or runny nose. It usually happens on one side of the nose and lasts for a long time even though you don't have a cold or allergies. These symptoms may gradually get worse. Other signs and symptoms of nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer may include:

  • nosebleeds

  • headache

  • sinus pain

  • pain above or below the eyes

  • a lump or growth on the face, on the roof of the mouth or inside the nose

  • watery eyes causing tears to run down the cheek

  • numbness, pain or swelling of the face

  • loose or numb upper teeth or changes in how dentures fit

  • bulging of one eye

  • loss or change in vision (for example, double vision)

  • pain or pressure in one of the ears

  • hearing loss

  • loss of sense of smell

  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck

  • trouble opening the mouth (called trismus)

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Nasal and Paranasal Sinus Cancers. Atlanta, GA: 2014: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003123-pdf.pdf.
  • Cancer Research UK. Symptoms of nasal and sinus cancers. Cancer Research UK; 2014: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/nasal-cancer/about/symptoms-of-nasal-and-sinus-cancers.
  • Frank SJ, Ahamad A, Ang KK . Cancer of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. Halperin EC, Wazer DE, Perez CA, Brady LW. Perez and Brady's Principles and Practice of Radiation Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013: 42.
  • Kupferman ME, Sturgis ME, Schwartz DL, Garden A, Kies MS . Neoplasms of the head and neck. Hong WK, et al (eds.). Holland Frei Cancer Medicine. 8th ed. People's Medical Publishing House; 2010: 77: 959-998.
  • Macmillan Cancer Support. Paranasal Sinus Cancer. London, UK: Macmillan Cancer Support; 2013: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertypes/Headneck/Typesofheadneckcancers/Paranasalsinuscancer.aspx.
  • Mendenhall WM, Werning JW, Pfister DG . Cancer of the head and neck. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 38: 422-473.
  • Tabaee A, Persky MS . Cancer of the nasal vestibule, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, anterior skull base, and orbit: Surgical management. Harrison LB, Sessions RB, & Kies MS. Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 20:525-559.