In this section: Nasal and Sinus Cancer




What do we mean by 'Nasal Cancer'? Nasal Cancer is a type of Head and Neck Cancer in the nose and nasal cavity. Sinus Cancer. If it's not the cancer type you're looking for, please explore the information about other types of Head and Neck Cancers.

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1. What is Nose Cancer?

Different types of cancer can develop from the different kinds of cells in the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. The most common are called squamous cell carcinoma (arising from the lining of the nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses) and adenocarcinoma (arising from the small gland cells throughout the sinuses).

Cancer occurs when cells become abnormal, grow uncontrollably and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. These cells build up to form a mass (or lump). 

Nasal and paranasal cancers are relatively rare. The most common location of paranasal sinus cancer is the maxillary sinus. 

Watch this 3D video explainer about Nasal and Sinus Cancer: 

2. What is the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses?

The nasal cavity is the large, air-filled space behind the nose. Paranasal sinuses are small air-filled spaces at the front of the skull, and surrounding the nasal cavity. They are found on the cheeks (the maxillary sinuses), above the eyes (the frontal sinuses), between the eyes (the ethmoidal air cells or sinuses) and behind the ethmoidal aircells (sphenoid sinuses). 

3. What do the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses do?

The nasal cavity warms and moistens the air we breathe and helps filter out dust and other harmful bits in the air. It runs back from the nostrils, above the roof of the mouth and curves down to connect with the mouth at the back of the throat.

The paranasal sinus air cavities give your voice its clarity and tone and lighten the weight of the skull. 

The nasal cavity is the main sensory organ responsible for the human sense of smell. It consists of specific receptors (olfactory) which are responsible for transmitting odors into neural impulses.

Diagram of the nose and surrounding areas: 

4. What causes Nose Cancer?

Doctors can’t always explain why a person gets cancer. But we do know what makes some cancers more likely. 

The main causes of nose and paranasal sinus cancers are: 

  • Smoking (cigarettes, cigars or pipes) or using ‘smokeless’ tobacco (snuff and chewing tobacco) If a person smokes or has smoked in the past, they have a higher risk of getting nasal and paranasal sinus cancer than someone who has never smoked. Get information about quitting smoking.

  • Drinking alcohol — If a person drinks a lot of alcohol over many years, they have a higher risk of getting nasal and paranasal sinus cancer, especially combined with smoking. Get information about reducing how much alcohol you drink

  • Breathing in certain chemicals or dust that may cause cancer including wood dust (hard and soft wood), leather dust (e.g. shoe making), chromium, nickel, heavy metal exposure, formaldehyde, cloth fibres (e.g. textile manufacturing) and mineral oils (used in metal work and printing.

Other factors that may increase the risk of nose and paranasal sinus cancer are: 

  • Being male – in Australia nasal and paranasal sinus cancers are twice as common in men compared to women

  • Age — most nasal and para nasal sinus cancers are common in people aged 45 years and over 

  1. Head and Neck Cancer Australia Resources 
  2. External Links to other Head and Neck Cancer Resources