What is nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer?

Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer starts in the cells in the nose or a sinus around the nose. A cancerous (malignant) tumour is a group of cancer cells that can grow into nearby tissue and destroy it. The tumour can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

The nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses are part of the respiratory system. The nasal cavity is made up of the nostrils and the hollow passageway just behind the nose. The nasal cavity filters, warms and moistens the air you breathe and gives you a sense of smell. The paranasal sinuses are hollow chambers around the nose, filled with air. These sinuses give your voice its unique sound and protect the brain from injury.

Cells in the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses sometimes change and no longer grow or behave normally. These changes may lead to non-cancerous (benign) tumours such as nasal polyps or inverting papilloma.

Find out more about non-cancerous tumours of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses.

But in some cases, changes to nasal cavity or paranasal cavity cells can cause cancer. Most often, nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer starts in flat, thin cells called squamous cells. These cells line the inside of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. This type of cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. Sometimes cancer can start in the gland cells of the nose or sinuses. This type of cancer is called adenocarcinoma of the nasal cavity or paranasal sinus.

Rare types of nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer can also develop. These include esthesioneuroblastoma and sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma (SNUC).

Find out more about treatments for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer.

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.
  • 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.
  • Martini FH, Timmons MJ, Tallitsch RB. Human Anatomy. 7th ed. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings; 2012.
  • 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.
  • National Cancer Institute. Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity CancerTreatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/paranasalsinus/HealthProfessional/page2/AllPages/Print.
  • Runbin P, Hansen JT. TNM Staging Atlas with Oncoanatomy. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012: http://www.lwwoncology.com.
  • 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.

The nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses

The nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses are part of the respiratory system. Learn about the anatomy and physiology of these structures.

Cancerous tumours of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses

Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer. Learn about cancerous tumours of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses.

Non-cancerous tumours of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses

Nasal polyps are non-cancerous tumours of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. Learn about non-cancerous nasal cavity and paranasal sinus tumours.