What are the symptoms of sinus cancer

Sinus refers to the paranasal sinuses in the cranial bones. They are air cavities which help to humidify the air we breathe and to enhance our voices. There are 4 sinuses namely the maxillary sinuses at the cheekbones, ethmoidal sinuses between our eyebrows, deep behind the nasal bones are the sphenoid sinuses and frontal sinuses are located on our forehead. The most common complaints by patients dropping in for a quick consultation with a physician is due to infection of the sinus or sinusitis causing symptoms of blocked nose, difficulting breathing, runny nose, coughing or throat irritation, fever and even swollen face. Most don’t know that these symptoms can also be a sign of sinus cancer until it’s too late. Hence, don’t self- treat a case of chronic sinusitis. Instead, find doctors in Kuala Lumpur to clarify any possible doubts.

Who are at risk of Sinus Cancer?

  1. Based on research, a number of occupational exposure can increase an individual’s risk of sinus cancer.
  • the textile industry, farming, construction, miners, drillers, blasters, plumbers, machinists, metal industry (chromium and nickel compounds), and formaldehyde.
  1. Males are more likely to develop sinus cancer as compared to females.
  2. Cigarette smoking and tobacco smoke are established risk factors for many health conditions including sinonasal cancer, especially for squamous cell carcinoma type.
  3. Even though the final conclusion has not been established yet, earlier research reveals a close association between viral infection and sinus malignancy, particularly Human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection.

 How do I know if I have Sinus Cancer?

Symptoms can be mistaken for a case of chronic sinusitis initially due to its clinical presentation of:

  • A persistent blocked nose, usually affecting 1 side
  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny nose
  • Mucus draining at the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
  • A reduced sense of smell (anosmia or hyposmia)
  • Diplopia

If left ignored prolonged period of time, patients will experience additional problems such as:

  • Severe headache affecting activities of daily living.
  • Visual disturbances.
  • Cranial neuropathy.
  • Facial sensation is affected especially in the upper cheek.
  • Proptosis or bulging eyes.
  • Asymptomatic neck mass or growth on your face, nose or roof of the mouth.
  • The tumour can extend into the adjacent structure.

What happens next after being suspected of sinus cancer?

Any cases suspected of malignancy will need to be confirmed with several diagnostic investigations. Hence, in this case, investigation methods involved consists of:

  • Nasal endoscopy: a long thin tube containing a small camera will be inserted to examine the nasal cavity more clearly. Its length also allows better examination of the internal part of the nasal cavity which is not easily seen.
  • Biopsy: For suspected growth seen from nasal endoscopy, a tissue sample is taken for microscopic examination.
  • CT or MRI scan: This procedure is done ONLY after the patient has a confirmed diagnosis of sinus cancer for the purpose of staging and surgical planning. This is because unnecessary exposure to radiation by these machines is not recommended.

Consultation with multiple specialities should be considered because these tumours involve complex structures throughout the face and skull base.

What are the chances of survival?

Depending on the type of cancerous cells, the prognosis can differ. The outcome is promising if the tumour is detected earlier and appropriate intervention is given.


According to SEER data, cancer of the paranasal sinuses has the following survival, depending on the type of cancer:

  Estimated Disease-Specific Survival at Five Years Estimated Disease-Specific Survival at Ten Years
Squamous Cell Carcinoma 36% 31%
Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma 61% 45%
Adenocarcinoma 51% 46%
Other 48% 38%
Total 42% 35%