Maxillary sinus cancer is a rare form of cancer that originates in the maxillary sinuses, which are located on either side of your nose below your cheeks.

Paranasal sinus cancers are a rare form of cancer that represent only a small number of all head and neck cancers. But most of those cancers develop within the maxillary sinuses.

With this condition, you may notice nasal drainage or obstruction, pain in your face, or a decreased sense of smell. Without surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, maxillary sinus cancer may quickly spread to other parts of your body.

This article will provide more detail on maxillary sinus cancer, symptoms and causes, and what you may consider discussing with a healthcare team about treatment options.

Maxillary sinus cancer is the most common type of paranasal sinus cancer. Maxillary sinus cancer originates in your maxillary sinuses.

There are two maxillary sinuses: one on each side of your nose, below your cheeks but above your teeth. They’re shaped like pyramids with three cavities. You can read more about them here.

Although maxillary sinus cancer begins forming in the maxillary sinuses, it can spread to other portions of your body including your brain. Especially if left untreated, it can become fatal.

Some potential symptoms of sinus cancer are:

  • nosebleeds
  • headaches
  • mucus with blood coming out of your nose
  • a decrease in your sense of smell
  • feeling like one side of your nose is blocked
  • mucus running down your throat

Symptoms of more advanced sinus cancer can include:

  • numbness or pain in your face around the upper cheek
  • swollen glands
  • trouble seeing (i.e., reduced vision, double vision)
  • a bulging or watery eye
  • discomfort in one ear
  • lumps visibly growing on your face

Maxillary sinus cancer may be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

You may be at a higher chance for sinus cancer if you:

  • are assigned male at birth
  • smoke
  • are exposed to wood dust, leather dust, and environmental toxins at work
  • have human papilloma virus (HPV)

While you can develop maxillary sinus cancer at any age, 80% of nasal and sinus cancers are diagnosed in individuals 55 years and older.

Sinus cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men in their 50s and 60s.

Tumors in the maxillary sinus can be benign or malignant.

A doctor will need to take a biopsy and send a sample of the cells to a laboratory in order to determine whether a growth in your sinuses is cancerous or benign.

Treatment for maxillary sinus cancer may include a combination of:

The exact treatment plan recommended for you by a doctor will depend on many factors, including:

  • the stage of the cancer
  • the size of any tumors
  • whether the cancer has spread to any other parts of the body
  • your overall health.

If you smoke, your doctor may request that you quit smoking as part of your treatment. This is important because smoking can cause complications during treatment and increase the chance of sinus cancer returning in the future.

It’s important to remember that every individual has a unique cancer experience. Your outlook may be affected by a variety of factors, including:

  • the specific stage and subtype of cancer you have
  • if your cancer has spread to other portions of your body
  • your age and general health
  • how responsive your body is to treatment

Maxillary sinus cancer can be a very aggressive form of cancer. It’s often diagnosed in its later stages, making treatment harder and increasing the risk of fatality.

In a 2022 study looking at 43 people with maxillary sinus cancer who were treated at a cancer institute between 2004 and 2018, researchers found that 36 people were classified as having stage 4 cancer.

After treatment, 30 people experienced local or regional reappearance of the cancer in their body, and 5 had a recurrence of the cancer in another portion of their body. Only 22% survived more than 5 years.

In a larger European study, 70% of the participants with nasal and paranasal sinus cancer lived at least 1 year after being diagnosed, and 50% survived 5 or more years. It’s important to note that this study included people with a variety of nasal and paranasal cancers, and those with nasal cancers had better survival rates than those with sinus cancers.

Maxillary sinus cancer is a rare form of cancer that develops in your maxillary sinuses, which are located near the nose. It can be very aggressive, so it’s important to talk with a doctor if you’re showing symptoms of sinus cancer like facial lumps and pain or a decreased ability to smell.

If you’re a man in your 50s or 60s who smokes and works in environments with toxins, you’re especially at risk of developing maxillary sinus cancer. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can be lifesaving.