Most of the living population suffers from sinusitis some occasionally and others frequently. However, the good news is that paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancers are extremely rare. In other words, your chances of developing sinus tumours are close to none. Having said that, if you are worried then rule out your fear by seeing an Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist at your earliest convenience.
What are the symptoms of sinus tumours?
In the early stages the more subtle symptoms of sinus cancer are hardly noticeable. The most common early warning signals are persistent nosebleeds. These can be occurrences of blood-streaked nasal mucus or they can manifest as gushers. Other early symptoms to look for are:
- Persistent sinus toothache
- A constant stuffy or runny nose
- Swelling around the eyes
Remember that cancerous growths are bound to effect adjacent tissue. Therefore, a growth can impinge on:
What are the causes of sinus tumours?
- A facial nerve causing numbness, tingling or pain.
- A tear duct, causing excessive tearing.
- An optic nerve or eye muscle, causing blurred or double vision, and sometimes squinting.
- Pressure on the Eustachian tube, causing inability to clear the ears, together with impaired hearing.
- In addition, large tumours may cause obvious facial lumps or deformities.
- They can deform the upper jaw causing misaligned teeth, or if you wear dentures, the uppers may no longer mesh correctly with the lowers.
- A tumour in the maxillary sinus may cause upper jaw toothache or loosened teeth.
- A lump or sore that will not heal may form inside the nose.
- A lump on the roof of the mouth (palate) may become noticeable.
The exact causes are the subject of ongoing clinical research and debate. However, exposure to sawdust, flour dust, metals such as chromium and nickel, and certain chemicals are considered risk factors. Occupations that are considered risky include:
- Furniture manufacturing
- Interior unventilated building construction or remodelling
- Woodwork and carpentry
- Leatherwork and shoemaking
- Chromium and nickel electroplating
- Flour mill or bakery work
There is also a higher than normal risk involved if you use tobacco or if you happen to be a male over the age of 40.
Diagnosis of sinus tumours
During the physical examination the oncologist will pay particular attention to unusual lumps, discoloration or visible growths. The doctor will also check your general health, medical history, habits, past illnesses, injuries, surgery and treatments received. He will then use an endoscope or a small long-handled mirror to examine the insides of the nasal passages for anything abnormal. The doctor will also check for lumps on the face or swollen lymph nodes
on the neck, armpit and groin. Head and chest X-rays
and possibly an MRI or CT scan
may be called for. If there is further cause for concern, the oncologist will send a small tissue sample from the inside of your nose to the laboratory for a cancer biopsy
. Finally, laboratory blood-work may be done.
Treatment of sinus tumours
Cancer treatment depends on two major factors:
- The location of the cancer.
- Whether it has metastasized (spread) to the lymph nodes or other organs.
- If the cancer has not metastasized, and if it is accessible, radiation therapy would be the first step, followed by surgery to remove the tumour.
If the cancer is inoperable, then the following could be considered:
Prognosis of sinus tumours
- Electrodessication (cooking the tumour with an electric charge)
- Cryotherapy where the tumour is frozen with liquid nitrogen
The most common type of sinus and nasal cavity cancer
is squamous cell carcinoma. This malignancy forms in the thin flat squamous cells that make up the mucous membrane lining both the paranasal sinuses and the nasal cavity. This type of cancer often responds to radiation therapy. However, other types of cancer may be involved, some more dangerous than others. A patient’s chances of recovery depend on the following:
- Where the tumour is situated
- The type of cancer
- The size of the tumour
- Whether adjacent tissues are involved
- The patient's age and general health
- Whether it's a first time occurrence or a recurring cancer