Nasal mucosal melanoma is a cancer that develops in the mucus-producing cells inside the nasal cavity. Symptoms include nosebleeds and nasal congestion. Treatment involves surgery, radiotherapy, and sometimes chemotherapy.

Nasal mucosal melanoma is a very rare cancer. For every 100,000 people, between 0.02 and 0.2 people will develop this condition every year.

This article discusses nasal mucosal melanoma symptoms, stages, and risk factors. It also outlines the diagnosis, treatment, and outlook for this type of cancer.

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The following pictures show what nasal mucosal melanoma can look like.

In the early stages, nasal mucosal melanoma does not cause symptoms.

According to a 2017 case study and literature review, when it does cause noticeable signs, symptoms include:

As the condition develops, the tumors take up increasingly more space in the face and head, potentially causing the following symptoms:

If the cancer spreads to distant organs, additional symptoms may occur, depending on where the cancer has spread.

As nasal mucosal melanoma is a form of melanoma, doctors will use a specific method for staging, known as the 7th edition AJCC staging system. This system takes into account the following three parameters:

TTumor diameter
T1less than or equal to 1 millimeter (mm)
T21.01–2 mm
T32.01–4 mm
T4greater than 4 mm
NNumber of places the cancer has spread (metastatic lymph nodes)
N3at least 4
MSite of distant cancer spread (distant metastases)
M0no distant metastases
M1adistant skin or lymph node metastases
M1blung metastases
M1cmetastases to any organ in large cavities of the body (viscera)

Using this information, the stages of nasal mucosal melanoma look like this:

1aT1 with ulcerationN0M0
1bT1b without ulcerationN0M0
T2 with ulcerationN0M0
2aT2b without ulcerationN0M0
T3 with ulcerationN0M0
2bT3 without ulcerationN0M0
T4 with ulcerationN0M0
2cT4b without ulcerationN0M0
3any Tany greater than N0M0
4any Tany NM1

A person may have a higher risk of developing nasal mucosal melanoma if they:

  • are white
  • are male
  • are 60 years or older
  • have experienced workplace exposure to formaldehyde

To diagnose nasal mucosal melanoma, doctors perform a biopsy of irregular-looking tissue. They will then use immunohistochemistry to determine if the tissue is cancerous.

Immunohistochemistry is a special laboratory technique. In response to the presence of mucosal melanoma cells, the body produces cells known as antibodies. These antibodies bind to the melanoma cells to harm them. Immunohistochemistry detects and analyzes the specific bindings between melanoma cells and antibodies.

Doctors use imaging techniques such as CT and MRI scans to stage nasal mucosal melanoma.

Since nasal mucosal melanoma is a rare condition, treatment options are limited.

The first-line treatment for this type of cancer is surgically removing the tumors. Doctors may also use radiation therapy alongside surgery. However, this treatment is not effective on its own.

If surgery and radiation are not effective, doctors may turn to chemotherapy.

There is currently no evidence of immunotherapy’s efficacy for nasal mucosal melanoma.

In general, the outlook for nasal mucosal melanoma is unfavorable. This is largely due to this type of cancer not being diagnosed until late-stage symptoms are present.

According to a 2021 study, the 5-year survival rate for nasal mucosal melanoma is around 35%. Research has shown that about 50% of people with this condition die within 3 years of diagnosis.

Is it curable?

A combination of surgery and radiation may cure nasal mucosal melanoma. However, this is not always the case.

Can it be benign?

Nasal mucosal melanoma is not a benign condition. It is a serious and life threatening form of cancer.

There is no evidence that nasal mucosal melanoma is a preventable disease.

Experts do not know the exact causes of this type of cancer. While there are known risk factors, most are impossible to modify.

Getting a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. It may help to turn to others for support, such as friends and family.

In addition, the nonprofit organization Melanoma Focus offers resources for people with nasal mucosal melanoma. This includes information about the condition, a free helpline, and treatment guidance.

Melanoma Focus also organizes a conference for people with this type of cancer.

Nasal mucosal melanoma is a form of cancer that develops in the mucus-producing cells of the nose. Being white, male, and older than 60 are risk factors for this condition. Symptoms include nosebleeds and nasal congestion.

As the condition develops, it may cause headaches, watery eyes, and double vision.

Biopsies and scans are necessary for diagnosing and staging nasal mucosal melanoma. The condition has a low survival rate. However, the main treatment option is surgery. Some people may also receive radiation therapy and chemotherapy.