Symptoms of sinus cancer often affect one side of the face and are similar to other more common conditions, such as allergic rhinitis.

Sinus cancer is rare, accounting for only 3–5% of all neck and head cancers.

This article reviews sinus cancer, signs, symptoms, and more.

A person who may have symptoms of sinus cancer looking up.Share on Pinterest
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A 2021 article states that there may not be any symptoms in the early stages of sinus cancer. Signs and symptoms begin to appear as the tumor grows.

Some symptoms of sinus cancer are similar to those of a cold or other infection, which means that people might miss them. However, the American Cancer Society (ACS) also notes that the symptoms a person is experiencing are likely due to another, more common cause.

The most common symptoms of sinus cancer include:

If a person is concerned about their symptoms, they should contact a doctor.

Q:

At which stage is a person most likely to notice symptoms of sinus cancer?

Anonymous

A:

Sinus cancer is unlikely to be large enough to cause symptoms until it has advanced to other body parts. At Stage III, the cancer is starting to spread and move, which is when it is more likely to cause noticeable symptoms.

Teresa Hagan Thomas, Ph.D., RNAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Sinus cancer can cause symptoms that affect the nose and eyes.

Nose symptoms

Sinus cancer may cause:

  • nasal congestion on one side of the nose that does not go away
  • nosebleeds
  • a decreased sense of smell
  • nasal mucus that might be bloody
  • postnasal drip
  • pus draining from the nose

Nasal congestion, or even a complete blockage, affecting one side of the nose that does not go away is one of the most common symptoms of sinus cancer.

Eye symptoms

Sinus cancer may cause the following symptoms:

  • complete or partial loss of sight
  • bulging of one eye
  • double vision
  • pain located above or below the eye
  • constant watery eyes
  • swelling of the conjunctiva, which is the tissue that covers the white of the eye

Other symptoms

Other symptoms include:

To diagnose sinus cancer, a doctor will take a person’s medical history and perform a physical exam. During the physical examination, they will check:

  • the head and neck, including the nose
  • for numbness, swelling, pain, and firmness in the face
  • the lymph nodes to determine if they have swollen
  • the eyes for vision changes
  • the symmetry of the face

If they suspect cancer, they will refer a person to an otolaryngologist. These medical professionals specialize in conditions that affect the ear, nose, and throat.

An otolaryngologist will perform an indirect endoscopy. This uses a headlamp and small mirrors to examine a person’s nose, throat, mouth, and tongue.

They may also order one or more of the following imaging tests:

In addition to imaging tests, an otolaryngologist may order a biopsy. A biopsy involves taking a small section of tissue to test for cancer. A doctor may order one of several different biopsies, including:

  • fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy
  • endoscopic versus open biopsy
  • incisional and excisional biopsies, which are minor surgeries to remove part or all of the tumor

They may arrange additional testing to assess how the tumor may be affecting a person. They can include:

  • speech tests
  • blood tests
  • heart tests
  • hearing tests
  • dental exam

A relative survival rate helps give an idea of how long a person with a particular condition will live after receiving a diagnosis compared with those without the condition.

For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate is 70%, a person with the condition is 70% as likely to live for 5 years as someone without the condition.

It is important to remember that these figures are estimates. A person can consult a healthcare professional about how their condition is going to affect them.

Several factors affect a person’s outlook, including:

  • size of the tumor
  • stage of the cancer
  • age
  • overall health
  • a person’s response to treatment

According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rates for sinus cancer are:

Stage5-year relative survival rate
localized85%
regional52%
distant42%
all stages combined58%

Many of the symptoms associated with sinus cancer are the same or similar to many benign conditions that affect the nasal cavity. A person is more likely to have a benign condition than cancer.

However, a person should speak with a doctor if they experience symptoms that either worsen or do not resolve.

Sinus cancer is a rare form of cancer. It causes symptoms similar to several different benign conditions, which may make early detection based on symptoms difficult.

The most common symptoms include a blocked nose that affects one side of the face, nosebleeds, a decreased sense of smell, postnasal drip, and mucus that runs from the nose.