Nasal and sinus cancer
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Doctors do not know the exact causes of nasal and sinus cancer. But there are risk factors that can increase your chance of developing it.
It is more common in people who handle or breathe in certain chemicals or dust for many years because of their job. These include wood dust, chromium, nickel, formaldehyde, leather dust and mineral oils.
Smoking tobacco may also increase the risk of nasal and sinus cancer.
We have more information about the causes and risk factors of head and neck cancer.
You usually start by seeing your GP. They will examine your face, eyes, ears and mouth.
They will refer you to a specialist doctor if:
- they think that your symptoms could be caused by cancer
- they are not sure what the problem is.
The specialist doctor will ask you about your symptoms and general health. You may have some of the following tests:
The doctor collects samples (biopsies) of cells or tissue from the area that looks abnormal. A doctor who specialises in analysing cells (called a pathologist) looks at the sample under a microscope for cancer cells.
Waiting for test results can be a difficult time, we have more information that can help.
Further tests for nasal and sinus cancer
These tests may be used to help diagnose nasal and sinus cancer or to check whether it has spread.
The results of your tests helps your doctors find out more about the size and position of the cancer and whether it has spread. This is called staging.
A doctor decides the grade of the cancer by how the cancer cells look under the microscope. This gives an idea of how quickly the cancer might grow or spread.
Knowing the stage and grade helps your doctors plan the best treatment for you.
A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
Your doctor will explain the different treatments and their side effects. They will also talk to you about the things you should consider when making treatment decisions.
Treatment for nasal and sinus cancer may include:
Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. It may be given after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. It may also be used before surgery to shrink a tumour, or as the main treatment if surgery is not possible. Radiotherapy can be given in combination with chemotherapy. This is called chemoradiation.
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. It may be given with radiotherapy (chemoradiation). It can also be given on its own before surgery or chemoradiation. Chemotherapy is also used to treat nasal and sinus cancer that has come back or spread.
We have more information about
- how different treatments are used to treat nasal and sinus cancer
- what will happen before your treatment and how to prepare.
You may also have some treatments as part of a clinical trial.
You have regular follow-up appointments after treatment. You may also have regular follow-up appointments with a speech and language therapist (SLT), dietitian, restorative dentist and dental hygienist.
If you have any problems or notice new symptoms between appointments, let your doctor know as soon as possible.
Sex life and fertility
Well-being and recovery
Even if you already have a healthy lifestyle, you may choose to make some positive lifestyle changes after treatment.
Making small changes to the way you live such as eating well and keeping active can improve your health and well-being and help your body recover.
It can be difficult to eat well after treatment for head and neck cancer, but your dietitian can help you.
Your feelings after head and neck cancer treatment
For some people, it takes several months to recover from treatment. It can be hard to cope if treatment has changed your appearance, voice or how you eat and drink. It is common to feel overwhelmed by different feelings.
There are national support groups that you may find helpful:
Macmillan is also here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:
Below is a sample of the sources used in our nasal and sinus cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists. Head and Neck Cancer: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary Guidelines. 2016. Available from: https://www.bahno.org.uk/_userfiles/pages/files/ukheadandcancerguidelines2016.pdf (accessed September 2018).
Lund VJ, Clarke PM, Swift AC et al. Nose and paranasal sinus tumours: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary Guidelines. The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 2016: 130 (Suppl 2): S111-S118, Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4873911/ (accessed September 2018)
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Chris Alcock, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.
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