About Sinus and Nasal Cancers and Types

Sinus cancer, nasal cancer and skull-base cancer usually originate in the maxillary sinus, the nasal cavity, and the ethmoid sinus, in that order. Cancers that originate at the top of your maxillary sinus, located between the eyes and the upper jaw, can invade your eyes and affect your vision. Those that invade through the back wall can access the nerves and vessels at the base of your skull and move directly into your brain. Those tumors represent extremely advanced disease.

Tumors arising in the ethmoid sinus, between the eye sockets and the nose, and the nasal cavity can also spread to an eye or the optic nerve. They can also invade the thin bone at the base of your skull and spread within your brain.

Types of sinus cancer, nasal cancer, and skull-base cancer

Many different types of cancers can be found within the sinus cavities, nasal passageway and skull base. These cancers include:

  • Squamous carcinoma, occurring in the maxillary sinus.
  • Salivary gland cancers, occurring in the sinonasal cavity. These cancers include adenocarcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma and adenoid cystic carcinoma.
  • Ethesioneuroblastoma, a common cancer of the nasal cavity. This cancer arises from the olfactory nerves in the roof of the ethmoid sinuses and has an extremely good prognosis.
  • Sarcomas — tumors arising from soft tissue, cartilage, and bone — occurring in the nasal cavity and skull base. Their prognoses vary considerably. Low grade tumors have an excellent prognosis while the outcome for high grade lesions is not as good.
  • Melanoma, occurring in the nasal cavity mucosa, similar to the melanomas that occur on the skin. This is an aggressive tumor even in the face of treatment. Skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and cutaneous melanoma, whether locally aggressive or recurrent, can invade the skull base.
  • Lymphomas, occurring in the sinonasal cavity.

Rare cancers

Tumors in your other sinuses are extremely rare. However, they can be found in the:

  • Frontal sinus
  • Sphenoid sinus
  • Eye socket (primary orbital tumors)
  • Skin