Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

People with nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can identify and describe, such as fatigue, nausea, or pain. A sign is something that other people can identify and measure, such as a fever, rash, or an elevated pulse. Together, signs and symptoms can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, people with nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer do not have any of the signs and symptoms described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be 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 go away with 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 1 of the eyes or loss of vision

  • 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

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.

A person who notices any of these changes 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 cancers have 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 figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may be called palliative care or supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.