Find out about this rare cancer that begins in the upper portion of the nasal cavity. Learn about symptoms and treatments, including minimally invasive surgery.
Esthesioneuroblastoma (es-thee-zee-o-noo-row-blas-TOE-muh) is a rare type of cancer that begins in the upper portion of the nasal cavity.
The area where esthesioneuroblastoma begins is separated from the brain by a bone that contains tiny holes that allow the nerves that control smell (olfactory nerves) to pass through. Esthesioneuroblastoma is also called olfactory neuroblastoma.
Esthesioneuroblastoma, which can occur at any age in adults, generally begins as a tumor in the nasal cavity and may grow or extend into the sinus, eyes and brain. People with esthesioneuroblastoma can lose their sense of smell, have frequent nosebleeds and experience difficulty breathing through their nostrils as the tumor grows.
Esthesioneuroblastoma can also spread to the lymph nodes in the neck and the parotid glands. In advanced cases, esthesioneuroblastoma can spread to other parts of the brain and other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver and bones.
Esthesioneuroblastoma treatment usually includes surgery. Often, radiation and chemotherapy are recommended, as well.
Esthesioneuroblastoma symptoms include:
As it grows, the cancer may cause eye pain, loss of vision, ear pain and headaches.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that concern you.
The exact cause of esthesioneuroblastoma has not been found. In general, cancer begins with a genetic mutation that allows normal, healthy cells to continue growing without responding to the signals to stop, which is unlike what normal cells do. Cancer cells grow and multiply out of control. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumor).
Complications of esthesioneuroblastoma may include:
An esthesioneuroblastoma diagnosis may involve:
Esthesioneuroblastoma treatment usually involves an operation to remove the cancer. Other treatments include radiation with high-powered energy beams and chemotherapy with powerful drugs.
Surgical techniques vary, depending on the tumor's location, and generally include procedures performed by:
Treatment for esthesioneuroblastoma usually involves experts from multiple specialties, such as neurosurgeons, head and neck surgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. People with esthesioneuroblastoma often undergo radiation therapy after surgery to kill any microscopic cancer cells that might remain in the head and neck.
Radiation therapy can also be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy if surgery isn't an option due to other health concerns or if the cancer is too advanced to be removed through an operation.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. In people with esthesioneuroblastoma, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain, especially for cancers that are very aggressive or extensive.
No alternative medicine treatments have been found to cure esthesioneuroblastoma. But complementary and alternative medicine therapies may help you cope with side effects of treatment when combined with your doctor's care.
Therapies that may be helpful during cancer treatment include:
An esthesioneuroblastoma diagnosis can be overwhelming. And just when you're trying to cope with the shock and the fears about your future, you're asked to make important decisions about your treatment.
Every person finds his or her own way of coping with a cancer diagnosis. Until you find what works for you, it might help to:
Learn enough about your cancer to make decisions about your care. If you'd like to know more about your esthesioneuroblastoma, ask your doctor for the details of your cancer — the type and grade. Ask for good sources of up-to-date information on your treatment options.
Knowing more about your cancer and your options may help you feel more confident when making treatment decisions.
Keep your friends and family close. Your friends and family can provide a crucial support network for you during your cancer treatment.
As you begin telling people about your esthesioneuroblastoma diagnosis, you'll likely get many offers for help. Think ahead about things you may want assistance with, for example, having someone to talk to if you're feeling low or getting help preparing meals.
Start by making an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. You might be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For esthesioneuroblastoma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.
Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as: