Decorative image

About surgery

Find out about nasal and sinus surgery and about the different types of surgeon who do this type of surgery.

Surgery of the nasal cavity and air sinuses

Surgery to remove cancer of the nasal cavity or the air cavities behind the nose (the paranasal sinuses) is very specialised. The structure (anatomy) in this area is very complex and has many important nerves and blood vessels. So planning and doing the surgery is difficult and is carried out by specialist surgeons.

Your surgeon will consider very carefully how your face will look and work after surgery. The main aim is to remove the cancer along with the smallest possible amount of surrounding healthy tissue and bone.

Removing lymph nodes in the neck

In some people, nasal or paranasal sinus cancer can spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. This happens in up to 15 out of every 100 people with these cancers (15%).

Diagram showing the lymph nodes in the head and neck

If tests show that there is cancer in the lymph nodes, you might have surgery to remove the nodes. Or you might have radiotherapy to the lymph nodes. Removing the lymph nodes is called a neck dissection.

Your doctors and surgeons

You have treatment from a team of specialist surgeons. The team may include:

  • an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon (otolaryngologist)
  • a maxillofacial surgeon - a specialist in surgery of the mouth, jaw, face and neck
  • a plastic surgeon - a specialist in moulding and rebuilding the surface and deep structures of the body
  • a prosthodontist - a dentist trained to make replacements for missing teeth or any other structure of the mouth

Because these types of cancers can spread to the eyes or inside the skull you might also be treated by:

  • an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) or
  • a surgeon who specialises in surgery to the brain and nervous system (a neurosurgeon)

Side effects of surgery

Depending on the position of your cancer and the type of operation you have, your surgery might change:

  • the way you can chew and swallow
  • your sense of smell
  • how you see
  • how you hear
  • how you speak

These changes may happen because your face and neck is swollen and sore after surgery. They will usually reduce or disappear once you start to heal. Swelling might also change how you look but this will usually get better too.

You might have some permanent changes in what you can do and the way you look. 

Before you have the surgery, your doctor will discuss the side effects with you.

Surgery to relieve symptoms

Your doctor might suggest surgery to relieve symptoms even if your cancer can't be cured. Surgery can remove part of the cancer to reduce symptoms and give you a better quality of life for longer. This is called palliative surgery.

You are most likely to need this type of treatment if your cancer is blocking any part of your nose and making it difficult for you to breathe.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.