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Treating Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancers

If you’ve been diagnosed with nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. It’s important that you think carefully about each of your choices. You will want to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible risks and side effects.

Common treatment approaches

Depending on the stage of the cancer and your general health, different treatment options may be used alone or in combination. In general, surgery is the first treatment for cancers of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses.  For bigger cancers that cannot be removed with surgery alone, radiation might be added or be the main treatment.  Chemotherapy given with radiation might also be used. 

Who treats nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers?

Based on the treatment options, you may have different kinds of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors may include:

  • An otolaryngologist: a doctor who specializes in certain diseases of the head and neck (also known as an ear, nose, and throat, or ENT doctor)
  • neurosurgeon: a doctor who specializes in surgery on the brain, spine, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
  • medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy·         
  • A plastic surgeon: a doctor who specializes in reconstructing or repairing parts of the body

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals. Treating cancers in the nasal cavity and sinuses can affect how you eat, look, and breathe. A cancer care team will work with you to limit changes to your body and help you adjust to the changes that have taken place while using the best treatments available.

Making treatment decisions

It’s important to discuss all treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. You may feel that you need to make a decision quickly, but it’s important to give yourself time to absorb the information you have learned. Ask your cancer care team questions. 

If the cancer is too advanced to be cured, the goal may be to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as reasonable to help keep the tumor from growing or spreading for as long as possible. Some of the treatments above can also be used as palliative treatment if all the cancer cannot be removed. Palliative treatment is used to relieve symptoms such as pain, but it's not expected to cure the cancer.

These are rare cancers, and not all hospitals and doctors have a lot of experience in treating them. If time permits, it is often a good idea to seek a second opinion. A second opinion can give you more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you choose.

Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial

Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. 

If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. 

Considering complementary and alternative methods

You may hear about alternative or complementary methods to relieve symptoms or treat your cancer that your doctors haven’t mentioned. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.

Complementary methods are treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of standard medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be harmful.

Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. 

Help getting through cancer treatment

People with cancer need support and information, no matter what stage of illness they may be in. Knowing all of your options and finding the resources you need will help you make informed decisions about your care.

Whether you are thinking about treatment, getting treatment, or not being treated at all, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms. Communicating with your cancer care team is important so you understand your diagnosis, what treatment is recommended, and ways to maintain or improve your quality of life. 

Different types of programs and support services may be helpful, and they can be an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.

The American Cancer Society also has programs and services - including rides to treatment,  lodging, and more - to help you get through treatment. Call our Cancer Knowledge Hub at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our caring, trained cancer helpline specialists. Or, if you prefer, you can use our chat feature on to connect with one of our specialists.

Choosing to stop treatment or choosing no treatment at all

For some people, when treatments have been tried and are no longer controlling the cancer, it could be time to weigh the benefits and risks of continuing to try new treatments. Whether or not you continue treatment, there are still things you can do to help maintain or improve your quality of life.

Some people, especially if the cancer is advanced, might not want to be treated at all. There are many reasons you might decide not to get cancer treatment, but it’s important to talk to your doctors as you make that decision. Remember that even if you choose not to treat the cancer, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms.

The treatment information given here is not official policy of the American Cancer Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor. Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask your cancer care team any questions you may have about your treatment options.