Follow-up after treatment for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer

Last medical review:

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists, surgeon, radiation therapist), dentist, an eye specialist (called an ophthalmologist) and your family doctor. You may also meet with a registered dietitian, who will make sure your nutrition needs are being met. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don't wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don't go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • any new lump or swelling in the neck
  • pain in your ear or other areas
  • headache
  • eye or sinus pain
  • stuffy, bloody or runny nose
  • fatigue
  • changes to your hearing

The chance that nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 2 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time. Most cancers in the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses recur in the area where the original tumour developed (called a local recurrence). People who have been diagnosed with nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer have a higher risk of developing a second primary tumour in another part of the head or neck.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer are usually scheduled:

  • 2 to 6 weeks after initial treatment
  • every 3 months in the first 2 years
  • about every 4 months in the third year
  • every 6 months in the fourth and fifth years
  • every year after 5 years

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you're coping.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • a head and neck exam that includes feeling the lymph nodes in your neck
  • checking your prosthesis if you have one

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • a nasal endoscopy to look for a recurrence inside the nose and nasopharynx
  • a CT scan, MRI or both
  • a PET scan combined with a CT scan (PET-CT scan)
  • blood tests to check how well your thyroid is working if you've had radiation therapy to the neck
  • tests to check your speech and swallowing
  • a dental exam to check for damage to the teeth
  • hearing tests
  • an eye exam to check your eye health and test your vision
  • a biopsy if there is an abnormal area
  • a chest x-ray to check for cancer in the lungs

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

Expert review and references

  • Shamir Chandarana, MD, MSc, FRCSC
  • Aaron Hansen, BSc, MBBS, FRACP
  • Michael P Hier, MDCM, FRCSC
  • Saul Frenkiel, MDCM, FRCS(C)
  • George Shenouda, PhD, MBBCh