Should I see a nasal cancer specialist? | Cancer Research UK
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Should I see a nasal cancer specialist?

Men and women discussing nasal and sinus cancer

This page tells you about the guidelines that GPs have to help them decide who needs to see a specialist for suspected nasal or paranasal sinus cancer. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Should I see a nasal cancer specialist?

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who to refer to a specialist. There are national guidelines to help GPs decide who should be seen urgently by a specialist.

Urgent referral guidelines

You should ideally get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. The guidelines say you may need urgent referral to a specialist 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 throat that has lasted longer than it should
  • Unexplained swelling in the glands under your ear, or around your lower jaw, that does not go away
  • Unexplained pain on one side of your head or neck for more than 4 weeks, with ear ache for no apparent reason

The guidelines also say 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.

If you are still worried

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

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about nasal cancer section.

 

 

UK guidelines

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who to refer to a specialist. With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if your symptoms go away on their own, or respond to treatment such as antibiotics. If GPs referred everyone with any symptom to a specialist immediately, the system would get jammed and those needing urgent appointments wouldn't be able to get them.

There are particular symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straightaway. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which patients need to be seen urgently by a specialist. The Scottish Government have produced similar referral guidelines for head and neck cancer.

Seeing a specialist

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
 

Urgent referral guidelines

You should ideally get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. The guidelines for GPs say that you may need 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 does not go away
  • Unexplained pain on one side of your head or neck for more than 4 weeks, with ear ache 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 guidelines also say 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.

It’s important to bear in mind that some of these symptoms can be caused by other less serious medical conditions and do not always mean that you have cancer of the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses.

 

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.

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Updated: 2 July 2014