Sinus Neoplasms


Sinus neoplasms (tumors) are abnormal growths that develop within sinus cavities – usually the ones around the nose.

They are primarily benign (non-cancerous), but they can still be cancerous. Another characteristic of these tumors is that they are typically incapable of spreading to other parts of the body. Diagnosis can be difficult since symptoms are similar to what’s common with acute or chronic sinusitis.

What Causes Sinus Neoplasms?

It’s not fully understood why sinus neoplasms develop. However, using tobacco products and being exposed to certain airborne irritants may increase your risk of developing a sinus tumor. If a tumor of this nature is cancerous, it’s likely to be squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer. A rare polyp called an inverted papilloma may also become cancerous. In addition to blocked sinuses and headaches, symptoms associated with sinus neoplasms may include:

  • Nosebleeds
  • A runny nose and symptoms similar to what you’d have with a cold
  • Pressure or pain around the ears
  • Vision problems
  • Swelling/inflammation around eyes
  • Teeth that become loose
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Sinus neoplasms can be difficult to detect since they normally develop in the sinus cavities. You’ll initially be asked about your symptoms and medical history, including whether or not you have a history of sinus problems.

A nasoscopy or nasal endoscopy is one of several diagnostic tools that may be used to view the inside of your nose and sinus cavities to look for signs of abnormal growths. It’s done with a lighted scope with an attached lens that produces detailed images that can be used to make a more accurate diagnosis.

The specialized tools used can also collect a tissue sample (biopsy). This sample is then tested to determine if it is benign or cancerous. MRIs, CT scans, and other types of image tests may also be performed if there is a need to look for structural abnormalities or issues in hard-to-reach sinus cavities.

How are Sinus Neoplasms Treated?

Even when a sinus neoplasm is non-cancerous, removal may be recommended if you are also having difficulty breathing or related issues with sinus blockages that are affecting your quality of life. The most common way to remove tumors within sinus passages is with endoscopic techniques, which are designed to be as minimally invasive as possible at UCI’s Sinus Surgery Center.

Some patients with sinus neoplasms also benefit from complementary treatments. Radiation therapy may be done after surgery if a tumor is cancerous, to ensure that all cancerous tissue has been treated. Chemotherapy may be recommended prior to surgery if there is a need to shrink a cancerous sinus tumor before performing surgery to remove it. Chemotherapy is sometimes done after surgery as well, to reduce the risk of recurrence. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are sometimes combined.

If sinus neoplasms are cancerous, follow-up care is important. This type of care typically involves performing routine exams that may include image tests to look for signs of recurrence. It’s also possible for secondary cancers to develop in the head and neck.