Ethmoid sinus cancer is a rare form of cancer that originates in the sinuses, behind the upper nose and between the eyes. Treatment might include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Although ethmoid sinus cancer starts in the sinuses, it can spread from the nasal cavity to other parts of the body.

Males who work in environments with certain forms of dust and chemicals are especially at risk of developing this type of cancer.

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment with chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy can lead to better outcomes for those with ethmoid sinus cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, nasal and paranasal sinus cancers are rare.

They most commonly affect males in their 50s and 60s. In fact, doctors diagnose an estimated 80% of nasal and sinus cancers in people ages 55 years or older, and males are twice as likely to develop these types of cancers.

Paranasal sinus cancers are most likely to originate in the maxillary sinuses rather than in the ethmoid sinuses, making ethmoid sinus cancer an even rarer form of cancer. (Cancers originating in the frontal and sphenoid sinuses are also extremely rare.)

Although the chances of developing ethmoid sinus cancer are low, white people are more likely to have them than African American people. Nasal and sinus cancers are also more common in certain areas of the world, Denmark being one.

Symptoms of sinus cancer can include:

  • nosebleeds
  • a decreased sense of smell
  • feelings of a blockage on one side of the nose that do not go away
  • bloody mucus coming from the nose
  • mucus running down the throat

If sinus cancer progresses, you may experience:

  • pain or numbness in your face, especially in the upper cheek
  • swollen glands
  • reduced vision or double vision
  • a watery or bulging eye
  • discomfort in one ear
  • a growing lump on your face

Ethmoid sinus cancer can be fatal without treatment. However, when a doctor diagnoses it early and treats it properly, a full recovery may be possible.

Experts typically describe the extent to which ethmoid sinus cancer has spread in stages:

  • Stage 0: The tumor is only affecting the top layer of cells in the ethmoid sinus and has not grown deeper or spread to other parts of the body.
  • Stage 1: The cancer cells have extended deeper, but they are limited to one portion of the ethmoid sinus.
  • Stage 2: The cancer cells may have extended into the nasal cavity or another portion of the ethmoid sinus.
  • Stage 3: The cancer cells may have grown into an eye socket, the roof of the mouth, or the maxillary sinus. The cancer may have also spread to a single lymph node on the same side as the tumor.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has spread to structures outside the ethmoid sinus, several lymph nodes, or distant parts of the body.

Every individual’s cancer experience is unique, but the risk of serious health complications tends to be higher in the later stages, when the cancer has spread to multiple areas of the body. One 2004 study found that doctors frequently diagnose ethmoid sinus cancer in the later stages.

If you develop ethmoid sinus cancer, it’s likely due to a combination of genetic factors, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices. It may be related to inherited mutations in your genes.

The risk of sinus cancer is higher for:

  • people assigned male at birth
  • those exposed to wood dust, leather dust, and environmental toxins in their work
  • individuals who smoke
  • those with human papillomavirus

Several factors can influence your outlook with ethmoid sinus cancer, including its stage, whether it has spread to other parts of the body, and your general health.

A large European study found that 70% of people survived for at least 1 year after getting a diagnosis of a nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer, and 50% lived for 5 or more years.

When considering these statistics, it’s important to note that those with nasal cancers did have a better survival rate than those with sinus cancers.

Treatment for ethmoid sinus cancer depends on many factors, including the cancer’s stage and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Your doctor will also consider your age and overall health.

Treatment may include:

Your doctor may recommend a combination of several or all of these treatments.

If you smoke, your doctor will also likely recommend that you stop, as this habit can cause complications during treatment and increase the risk of the cancer returning.

Ethmoid sinus cancer is a rare form of cancer that originates in the ethmoid sinuses. Males who smoke and work around certain forms of dust and toxic chemicals are most likely to develop this type of cancer.

If you receive a diagnosis of ethmoid sinus cancer after reporting a loss of smell or facial pain, your doctor will take into account your cancer’s stage and the size of any tumors when determining the best treatment plan. Getting prompt treatment can improve your chance of a positive outcome.