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Referral to a specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to nasal or paranasal sinus cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

UK referral guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. In England an urgent referral means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time frame is not part of the waiting times for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible. Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment.

Guidelines for head and neck cancer

There are general guidelines for all head and neck suspected cancer referrals. These guidelines vary between the different UK nations. The following is a summary.

Your doctor (or sometimes your dentist) might refer you to a specialist urgently if you have: 

  • an unexplained lump in the head and neck area

Or any of these symptoms if they don’t get better:

  • a swelling or break (ulceration) on the lips or in the mouth
  • an unexplained sore or painful throat
  • unexplained painful swallowing
  • an unexplained hoarse voice
  • red or red and white patches in your mouth

A symptom that does not get better usually means a symptom that lasts for more than 3 weeks.

Other symptoms

Your doctor might use these guidelines as well as considering other symptoms that you have. Possible symptoms of a nasal or paranasal cancer include a blockage on one side of the nose or nosebleeds.

Your GP might also take into account whether you have any risk factors that affect your chances of developing this type of cancer.

What to do if you are still worried

It’s important to remember that nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers are very rare. But sometimes you might feel that your GP is not concerned enough about your symptoms. If you think they should be more concerned, print this page and the symptoms page. 

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.

Information and help