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Paranasal sinus cancer: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About paranasal sinus cancer

Paranasal sinuses are four air-filled bony sacs around the nasal cavity, namely frontal sinus, ethmoidal sinus, maxillary sinus, and sphenoidal sinus. Paranasal sinuses moisten the air entering the nose and help in increased resonation of voice.

Paranasal sinus cancer: Incidence, age and sex

It is a rare cancer representing only 3% of all cancers of the head and the neck region and just 1% of all cancers. Paranasal sinus cancer is more common in Asian countries rather than the west.

Paranasal sinus cancers occur more frequently in men as compared with women, and mostly seen in the age group of 50-70 years. Of the four sinuses, the largest sinus - the maxillary sinus is most commonly affected and sphenoidal and frontal sinuses are the least commonly affected (incidence less than 1%).

Signs and symptoms of paranasal sinus cancer: Diagnosis

A paranasal sinus cancer is often accidentally discovered. Most individuals usually do not show any symptoms. Since the sinuses provide enough room for cancer to grow, it may not exhibit any symptoms. However, some clinical features of cancer may present during the advanced stage of cancer. Such features include complaints of persistent nasal congestion, chronic sinus infection (which does not heal with antibiotics), frequent headaches, nose bleeds and a reduced sense of smell. Invasion of cancer to adjacent structures may result in pain or swelling on the face, eyes, or ears, bulging of one of the eyes or vision loss or even a lump in the neck. Affected individuals may also experience fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

The diagnosis is made on the basis of detailed history and physical examination of the individual. Diagnostic procedures like nasal examination, radiological examination of paranasal sinuses or biopsy of cancerous tissue may help in establishing the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of paranasal sinus cancer

The exact cause of paranasal sinus is not very clear. But it seems to be more common among people who regularly inhale certain types of wood and metal (nickel) dust. Chronic sinusitis does not necessarily progress to cancer.

Paranasal sinus cancer: Complications

If left untreated, the paranasal sinus cancer may spread to other adjacent tissues and damage them subsequently. The cancer growth in the paranasal sinus is most likely to invade or spread to structures such as orbit (the bony cavity protecting the eyeball), the brain, the optic nerves, or the carotid arteries.

Paranasal sinus cancer: Treatment

The treatment of paranasal sinus depends upon the size, location of the tumour and the person’s overall health. Three main types of treatment in any type of cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. One of these treatments, or a combination of them, may be used to manage cancerous growth in the paranasal sinus. Paranasal sinus cancer can often be cured, especially if detected early. The treatment should be followed by regular and careful follow-up since there is always an increased risk of developing a new cancer growth in the head or neck region or recurrence of cancer of paranasal sinus