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Nasal Cavity Cancer

What Is Nasal Cavity Cancer?

Nasal cavity cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that grows inside the nasal cavity, behind the nose. When you breathe, air enters through your nose and passes through your nasal cavity, which is above the roof of your mouth.

The most common type of nasal cavity cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cells compose the lining of our organs, including our mouth and nasal passages.

Other types of cancer can develop in this area including for example:

  • Melanoma, which affects the cells that give skin its color
  • Adenocarcinoma, which affect the mucous glands within the lining of our organs

Noncancerous (benign) tumors can also grow in the nasal cavity.

As with any type of cancer, there is no single known cause of nasal cavity cancer. However, some people have risk factors that make them more susceptible to this type of cancer.

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing a condition, though it doesn't guarantee that you will develop it. Some people with cancer do not have any known risk factors.

The risk factors for nasal cavity cancer are:

  • Sex — it affects more men than women
  • Age — it affects more people over the age of 40
  • Exposures to wood dust, certain metals, flour dust, glues, and solvents
  • Smoking

This type of cancer can spread within the head and neck, and also to other parts of the body.

Nasal cavity cancer symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Sinus pressure
  • Runny nose and nosebleeds
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in the face
  • Ear pain
  • A lump or pain in the roof of the mouth

Your doctor at UPMC will record your medical history, ask about your current health, and discuss any risk factors you may have for this type of cancer.

Your doctor will then examine your head and neck, and the inside of your nose and mouth. They will look and feel for any lumps or bumps, and any abnormal tissue. They may use a lighted instrument to see inside your nose.

You may need other tests, such as:

If cancer is found, the above test results will also show whether the cancer has advanced or spread, what stage it is, and what treatment may be needed.

Our team will review your test results with you, discuss your treatment options, and work with you to develop a plan that fits your goals and expectations. Most head and neck cancers are treated using surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, or a combination of at least two of these.

Chemotherapy: During chemotherapy, medications are administered orally or through an IV. Chemotherapy can make you feel sick and can sometimes affect other organs like the liver, so your team will monitor your health closely during chemotherapy to watch for side effects.

Learn more about chemotherapy.

Radiation: Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or concentrated radioactive material to kill cancer cells. UPMC offers several types of radiation therapy, all of which have been developed to target the cancer and affect healthy tissue as little as possible. Radiation has some side effects, which may include dry mouth, skin problems, and fatigue.

Learn more about radiation therapy.

Surgery: UPMC offers innovative, cutting-edge surgical techniques to treat nasal cavity cancer. The goal of surgical treatment is to remove as much cancer as possible while leaving healthy tissue alone. Minimally invasive surgery such as robotic surgery has several benefits, which include better surgical precision and shorter hospital stays.

Learn more about surgical options at UPMC

UPMC has provided high-quality services to Pittsburgh, the surrounding areas, and to people around the world for more than 30 years.

Our team of experts who focus on head and neck cancer every day includes:

  • Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists
  • Surgeons
  • Medical and radiation oncologists
  • Audiologists
  • Speech pathologists

We are a trusted national and international leader in head and neck cancer care, providing proven and cutting-edge services to each person we see, and conducting research to constantly improve the care we deliver.

Contact Us

To make an appointment for head and neck cancer care at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, call 412-647-2811.