How Sinus Cancer Is Treated

If you receive a diagnosis of sinus cancer, the first thing your doctor will do is undertake a thorough assessment of the tumor, as treatment protocols depend on the stage of the disease, as well as the size and type of tumors and their location.

Once your cancer has been examined, a healthcare team of doctors and nurses will work with you to formulate an individualized treatment plan that maximizes your chances of achieving full remission while minimizing side effects that can affect your quality of life. Your team may include an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist and a cancer specialist called an oncologist.

Sinus cancer treatment options include:

  • Surgery: Minimally invasive endoscopic surgery through the nose is a very popular tumor removal option for qualified patients. 
  • Radiation: High-energy radiation is used to kill the cancerous cells, shrink a tumor before surgery, or destroy small pieces of a tumor that may be left after surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: Medicine that is injected intravenously or taken by mouth helps to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Adjuvant chemotherapy, or chemotherapy after surgery, reduces the risk of your cancer returning after surgery.

This article will discuss the treatment options that are available and how they can help put you on the path to making a complete recovery. 

Doctor encouraging female patient

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Surgical Options

The type of surgical procedure used will ultimately depend on where the tumor is, how big it is, and what other structures are involved. The following surgeries are most commonly used to remove sinus cancer tumors:

  • Wide local excision: Early-stage tumors in the nasal cavity can be removed using wide local excision. During this procedure, an ENT or oncologist will remove the tumor and some normal tissue around it. 
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery: This minimally invasive procedure uses a small thin tube with a camera on the end, called an endoscope, to identify and remove tumors from the nasal cavity.
  • Medial maxillectomy: Small tumors on the middle wall of the sinus may be removed by a surgery called medial maxillectomy. In some cases, this operation may involve removing part of the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. If so, your doctor will likely refer you to a specialized dentist, called a prosthodontist, who can make a special denture prosthetic to fill the hole created during surgery. A plastic surgeon or ENT may also be called in to perform reconstruction surgery.
  • Neck dissection: If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in your neck, as seen in more advanced cases, the lymph nodes may need to be removed through a surgery called neck dissection.

Prior to surgery, your nurse or another healthcare professional will ask you about any medications you are taking, prior medical conditions and allergic reactions, and whether you smoke, drink, or use alcohol. You will likely be asked to quit smoking prior to surgery and you may have to stop taking certain medications for 24 to 48 hours beforehand as well. 

Radiation

Radiation is commonly used alongside surgery and in conjunction with chemotherapy. Because sinus cancer often targets hard-to-reach places, your oncologist may suggest CyberKnife, a special type of targeted radiation therapy that damages less tissue than conventional therapy. CyberKnife software allows for targeted radiation in concentrated doses and may also reduce the amount of radiation you need. 

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy for sinus cancer is sometimes given by IV, but it is becoming more common to deliver the cancer-fighting drugs by mouth in tablet, capsule, or liquid form. The medication is prescribed by your doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician's assistant, and has the same benefits and risks as chemotherapy given by infusion. 

Chemotherapy is given at different times during treatment for sinus cancer, such as:

  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: Often used along with radiation therapy (called chemoradiation) prior to surgery to try to shrink the tumor and make surgery easier
  • Adjuvant chemo: Frequently combined with radiation therapy after surgery to try to kill any cancer cells that might have been left behind after surgery and reduce chances of recurrence
  • Palliative chemotherapy: When sinus tumors are too big or cancer has spread too far to be removed by surgery, chemo may be used to control or slow cancer growth and increase the length of survival. It may also be used for other treatment-resistant forms of the disease. 

Chemotherapy medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat sinus cancer include:

  • Cisplatin
  • Carboplatin
  • 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)
  • Docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • Methotrexate
  • Capecitabine (Xeloda)

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Complementary medicine, such as acupuncture and massage therapy, is sometimes used to help people cope with the physical and emotional challenges of undergoing cancer treatment. Mind-body therapies like yoga, meditation, and tai chi may also help.

No herbal or vitamin supplements have been proven to help alleviate sinus cancer pain or other symptoms, but there are products on the market claiming to do so. Keep in mind that natural does not necessarily mean safe, so be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement. 

A Word From Verywell

Undergoing treatment for sinus cancer can be scary, but remember that most cases of this rare disease are treatable. If you have been diagnosed, your healthcare team will first do a full assessment of the stage and location of the tumor. Then they will work with you to create a comprehensive treatment plan, likely consisting of a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, that will optimize your chances of survival while minimizing the impact on your quality of life. Caring doctors and thorough diagnosis and treatment will put you on the path to getting back to a happy, healthy life.

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