Treatments for sphenoid sinus cancer

Last medical review:

Tumours in the sphenoid sinus are very rare. They are treated the same no matter how advanced they are when they are found.

The following are the treatments used for tumours in the sphenoid sinus.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is the main treatment for sphenoid sinus cancer. It is also used to treat cancer that has spread to lymph nodes in the neck (called cervical lymph nodes).

Radiation therapy may be given with chemotherapy (called chemoradiation). The chemotherapy drug most often used is cisplatin.

Brachytherapy may be used for sphenoid sinus cancer that comes back (recurs) after treatment. Brachytherapy is a form of radiation therapy that places a radioactive material (called a radioactive isotope) directly into, or very close to, the tumour.


Chemotherapy may be used to treat sphenoid sinus cancer. It may be given alone or as part of chemoradiation. The chemotherapy drug most often used is cisplatin.

Chemotherapy may also be used to treat sphenoid sinus cancer that comes back after being treated with radiation therapy.


Surgery is sometimes used to treat sphenoid sinus cancer. It is difficult for doctors to use surgery to reach and remove tumours in the sphenoid sinus because it is located deep in the skull.

If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, surgery may be used to remove them (called a neck dissection). Find out more about neck dissection.

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don't work anymore, they're not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can't have or don't want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to people with nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer in Canada. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer.

Find out more about clinical trials.

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
  • American Cancer Society . Treating Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancers . 2021 :
  • Mendenhall WM, Dziegielewski PT, Pfister DG. Cancer of the head and neck. DeVita VT Jr., Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2019: 45:542–598.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network . NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Head and Neck Cancers (Version 3.2021) . 2021 .
  • PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board . Paranasal sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version . Bethesda, MD : National Cancer Institute ; 2019 :