Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2014

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

People with nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer do not show any of these symptoms. In fact, these types of cancer are usually diagnosed in their later stages because early stage cancer typically does not cause any symptoms. Nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer is often discovered when a person is being treated for seemingly benign, inflammatory disease of the sinuses, such as sinusitis. However, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

  • Nasal obstruction or persistent nasal congestion and stuffiness, which is often called sinus congestion 
  • Chronic sinus infections that do not respond to antibiotic treatment
  • Frequent headaches or pain in the sinus region
  • Pain or swelling in the face, eyes, or ears
  • Persistent tearing of the eyes
  • Bulging of one of the eyes or vision loss
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Pain or numbness in the teeth
  • Loosening of teeth
  • A lump on the face, nose, or inside the mouth
  • Frequent runny nose
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • A lump or sore inside the nose that does not heal
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A lump in the neck 

A person who notices any of these warning signs should talk with a doctor and/or dentist right away and ask for a detailed physical examination, particularly if the symptoms continue for several weeks. Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer has a much better chance of being treated successfully when they are found early.

Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

Because many of these symptoms can be caused by other, noncancerous health conditions, it is always important to receive regular health and dental screenings; this is particularly important for people who routinely drink alcohol or who currently use tobacco products or have used them in the past. In fact, people who use alcohol and tobacco should receive a general physical examination at least once a year even if they do not have any symptoms. This is a simple, quick office visit in which the doctor looks in the nose, mouth, and throat for abnormalities and feels for lumps in the neck. If anything unusual is found, the doctor will recommend a more extensive examination using one or more of the diagnostic procedures mentioned in the Diagnosis section.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section helps explain what tests and scans may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Diagnosis, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.