Overview of Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses Cancer

The paranasal sinuses include:

  • frontal sinuses–located above the nose
  • ethmoid sinuses–located just behind either side of the upper nose
  • sphenoid sinuses–located behind the ethmoid sinus in the center of the skull
  • maxillary sinuses–located under the eyes and in the upper part of either side of the upper jawbone

Cancerous lesions (sores or tumors) of the maxillary sinuses are twice as common as those of the nasal cavity. Risk factors associated with the development of nasal and paranasal sinus tumors include exposure to nickel, chromium, mustard gas, isopropyl alcohol and radium; thoratrast (a contrast agent once used in x-ray procedures) and possibly chronic sinusitis also have been linked with development of paranasal sinus tumors.

The most common type of tumor in these regions is squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells resembling fish scales. They are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Commonly these tumors are well defined and slow growing, with a low tendency to spread (metastasize) either locally, regionally or distantly.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015