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Referral to a specialist

Find out when GPs refer people to see a nasal cancer or paranasal sinus cancer specialist.

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if you have symptoms that could be due to nasal or paranasal sinus cancer. This is called an urgent referral.

Urgent referral guidelines

Guidelines for GPs in the UK say that you may need an urgent referral to a specialist for nasal and paranasal sinus cancer if you have:

  • an unexplained lump in your neck that is new, or has changed in the previous 3 to 6 weeks
  • an unexplained sore or painful throat, that has lasted longer than it should
  • unexplained swelling in the glands under your ear, or around your lower jaw, that doesn't go away
  • unexplained pain on one side of your head or neck for more than 4 weeks, with earache for no apparent reason

Your doctor may also want to refer you to a dentist urgently if you have a loose tooth for more than 3 weeks, for no apparent reason.

The GP should send you for an urgent chest x-ray if you have had a hoarse, husky or quieter than normal voice for more than 3 weeks, particularly if you are a smoker aged over 50, or a regular, heavy drinker. The reason for the x-ray is to try and rule out a lung cancer or head and neck cancer.

Some of these symptoms can be caused by other less serious medical conditions and don't always mean that you have cancer.

UK referral guidelines

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) produce guidelines for GPs in the UK. The guidelines help them decide who needs an urgent referral.

While reading these guidelines, it is important to remember that:

  • nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers are very rare, with around 440 new cases each year in the UK
  • a number of risk factors affect your chances of developing a head and neck cancer

What to do if you are still worried

Apart from those mentioned in the guidelines, there are other nasal cancer symptoms that you may want to see your GP about.

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page (and the symptoms page) and take it along to an appointment.

Ask your GP to talk it through with you and then you may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist, and if so, how soon.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.