Non-cancerous tumours of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses

Last medical review:

A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses is a growth that does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Non-cancerous tumours are not usually life-threatening, and they are typically removed with surgery. Non-cancerous tumours located in the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses usually come back (recur).

There are a few types of non-cancerous tumours of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses.

Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are the most common non-cancerous nasal cavity and paranasal sinus tumour. They are abnormal growths in the mucous membrane of the nose and sinuses. Sometimes many polyps grow at the same time.

Nasal polyps can cause:

  • stuffy, blocked or runny nose
  • loss of sense of smell
  • headache

Most nasal polyps develop when allergies, infection or other conditions make the mucous membrane of the nose or paranasal sinuses inflamed. Nasal polyps may also develop in people with asthma.

Nasal polyps are usually treated when they start to cause symptoms. Treatments include nasal steroid sprays, corticosteroid medicines, allergy medicines and sometimes antibiotics. Steroid and allergy medicines can help shrink polyps and prevent them from growing back. Antibiotics are used to treat an infection. You may need surgery to remove polyps if they are large or don't go away with medicines.

Inverting papilloma

Inverting papilloma is the second most common non-cancerous nasal cavity and paranasal sinus tumour. Inverting papilloma is a warty growth that is most common in men between the ages of 40 and 70. Research suggests that about 30% of cases of inverting papilloma are linked to an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).

This type of tumour is considered non-cancerous, but inverting papilloma is aggressive. It can destroy the surrounding bone or grow deeply into the tissues near the sinuses, including brain tissue.

Inverting papilloma can cause:

  • blocked nose
  • watery eyes
  • nosebleeds

In 5% to 15% of cases, inverting papilloma may develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is a cancerous tumour. Find out more about cancerous tumours of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses.

Because inverting papilloma can be dangerous and may become cancerous, doctors usually remove these tumours with surgery using an endoscope. Inverting papilloma comes back or grows into surrounding tissues in about 10% to 20% of cases.

Expert review and references

  • Bayardo Perez-Ordonez, MD, FRCPC
  • American Cancer Society . About Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer . 2021 : https://www.cancer.org/.
  • 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.
  • PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board . Paranasal sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version . Bethesda, MD : National Cancer Institute ; 2019 : https://www.cancer.gov/.