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 and Delivery of High Quality Cancer Care in Essex"
NHS Essex Cancer Network

Nose and Sinus Cancer


Nasal and sinus cancer affects the nasal cavity (the space behind your nose) and the sinuses (small, air-filled cavities inside your nose, cheekbones and forehead).

It's a rare type of cancer that most often affects men aged 50-60.

Nasal and sinus cancer is different to cancer in the area where the nose and throat connect. This is called nasopharyngeal cancer.

This page covers:


When to see your GP

Who's at risk



Symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer

The most common symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer are:

  • a persistent blocked nose, which usually only affects one side
  • nosebleeds
  • mucus draining from the nose, which may be blood-stained
  • a decreased sense of smell

These symptoms can be similar to more common and less serious conditions, such as a cold or sinusitis.

At a later stage, symptoms can include:

When to see your GP

See your GP if you notice any unusual or persistent symptoms. They're very unlikely to be caused by nasal or sinus cancer, but are worth getting checked out.

If your GP thinks you might need some tests to determine what's causing your symptoms, you'll usually be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) consultant in hospital.

Tests you may have include:

Who's at risk of nasal and sinus cancer

Several factors are known to increase the risk of developing nasal and sinus cancer, including:

  • your gender – men are more likely to develop nasal and sinus cancer than women
  • prolonged exposure to certain substances through your work, including wood dust, leather dust, nickel, chromium and formaldehyde
  • smoking – the more you smoke, the higher your risk of developing several types of cancer, including nasal and sinus cancer
  • human papilloma virus (HPV) – a group of viruses that affect the skin and moist membranes, such as the mouth and throat

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced a report on the risk of occupational nasal and sinus cancer in Great Britain (PDF, 2Mb).

Treatments for nasal and sinus cancer

The best treatment depends on several factors, including how far the cancer has spread and your general health.

Treatment may include:

  • surgery to remove a tumour – which can be performed using surgical incisions (open surgery) or as keyhole surgery through the nose (endoscopic microsurgery)
  • radiotherapy – where high-energy radiation is used to kill the cancerous cells, shrink a tumour before surgery, or destroy small amounts of a tumour that may be left after surgery
  • chemotherapy – where medicine is used to help shrink or slow down the growth of a tumour, or to reduce the risk of the cancer returning after surgery

Your treatment will be organised by a head and neck cancer multidisciplinary team (MDT), who will discuss the treatment options with you. A combination of treatments will often be recommended.

Outlook for nasal and sinus cancer

There are many different types of cancer that can affect the nasal cavity and sinuses. The outlook varies, depending on the specific type you have.

Overall, around one in every two or three people with nasal and sinus cancer will live for at least five years after diagnosis.

However, this can vary, depending on things such as exactly where the cancer is located and how far it has spread before it's diagnosed and treated.

Nearly everyone diagnosed at an early stage will live for at least five years. However, if it's not diagnosed until an advanced stage, only around one in every three to five people will live at least five years.

Cancer of the nasal cavity generally has a better outlook than cancer of the sinuses.

Want to know more?

Further information on nose and sinus cancer

Information Prescription Service

To access the Information Prescription Service and the national cancer information pathway for nose and sinus cancer please click on the link below. Then click on 'Specialist information from our charity partners'


Cancer Research UK Website


Further Information

Visit or phone a local cancer information centre

There are several cancer information and support centres in Essex Cancer Network where anyone affected by cancer can be sure of a warm welcome and high quality, accurate, evidence-based information:

Basildon Hospital Macmillan Info and Support Centre, Outpatients Dept, Basildon Hospital, staffed Monday 2pm - Friday 12.30pm,tel: 0845 155 3111 extension 4908

Macmillan Info and Support Centre,Essex County Hospital, Outpatients Dept, Monday - Friday office hours, tel: 01206 747474

Information Resource Service, St Luke's House, Corringham,Thurrock, Monday to Friday office hours, tel: 01375 648170

Lantern Suite, Farleigh Hospice,Chelmsford, Monday to Friday office hours, tel: 01245 457418

Hospice Outreach Project Information Bus, Farleigh Hospice, covers the Chelmsford area. Contact Farleigh Hospice as above

For more information, please contact the service direct.


Visit your local library in Essex Cancer Network

Essex, Southend and Thurrock library services have worked in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and the Essex Cancer Network to establish collections of quality assured information books and pamphlets about cancer. These can be accessed at any library: just ask. Additionally some staff at libraries have been trained to help patients use the Information Prescription Service.

Contact Macmillan Cancer Support Helplines

If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just someone to talk to, call free, Monday to Friday 9am - 8pm (interpretation service available) tel: 0808 808 0000

For financial queries tel: 0808 808 2232


Remember: Stay safe online when looking for support!

Internet chat rooms and message forums can be valuable sources of support and comfort, enabling you to meet others in the same position. However, there is potential for abuse - please read these guidelines before you set off to explore...

Click here to download the draft guidelines


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