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​Sinus Tumors

Sinus tumors are benign or cancerous tumors that occur in the nose or sinuses.

Learn about the treatment options for Sinus Tumors at the UPMC Pituitary Center of Excellence.

Contact the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery

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What are Sinus Tumors?

Sinus and nasal cavity tumors mainly are benign and incapable of spreading to another part of the body. These tumors may occur on either side of the nose and are usually slow growing.

Malignant sinus tumors are rare. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer found in the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity. Other malignancies may also be found, such as:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Lymphoma 
  • Melanoma

A rare type of polyp called an inverted papilloma usually is found on one side of the nose and can become malignant.

Sinus tumors are often diagnosed late because early symptoms are similar to those found in people diagnosed with acute and chronic sinusitis.

At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for sinus tumors is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA).  This innovative, minimally invasive technique uses the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access hard-to-reach or previously inoperable tumors. Benefits of EEA include:

  • No incisions to heal
  • No disfigurement
  • Faster recovery time

Diagnosing a Sinus Tumor

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about any symptoms you are experiencing.

Sinus tumor symptoms

Symptoms of a sinus tumor may include:

  • Blocked sinuses
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the sinus area
  • Runny nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Pain or pressure in the ear
  • Double vision, blurred vision, or loss of vision
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Loose teeth

Tests for diagnosing a sinus tumor

Your doctor also may want you to have diagnostic tests such as:

  • MRI and CT scans
  • X-rays
  • Nasoscopy
  • Biopsy

These tests will confirm where the sinus tumor is and determine whether it is cancerous.

Sinus Tumor Treatments

UPMC's neurosurgical team may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches for the treatment and removal of sinus tumors.

Sinus Tumor Surgery

Sinus tumors may be approached directly using the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA).This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive approach allows surgeons to access the tumor through the natural corridor of the nose, without making an open incision. Surgeons then remove the tumor through the nose and nasal cavities.

EEA offers the benefits of no incisions to heal, no disfigurement, and a faster recovery time.

If you need complementary treatments, such as radiation, those therapies can begin soon after EEA surgery.

When evaluating sinus tumors, our neurosurgeons will look at your condition from every direction in order to find the path that is least disruptive to your brain, critical nerves, and ability to return to normal functioning.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy may be used after surgery for a malignant sinus tumor. Radiation can be delivered:

  • Externally by directing radiation at the tumor from an outside source
  • Internally by placing radioactive material directly in the body near the cancer
  • Using stereotactic radiosurgery to deliver a concentrated dose of radiation directly to the tumor


Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells.

Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, chemotherapy may be taken by mouth, given by an injection, or placed directly into the brain tumor site.

After treatment

Frequent follow-up is required for malignant sinus tumors because of the high rate of developing secondary cancers in the head or neck.