Nose cancer, or nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), is a rare cancer affecting the nose and sinuses. Surprisingly, nose cancer doesn’t form in the nose but in the nasopharynx region. The nasopharynx is located behind the nose, above the soft palate. Although it is a rare form of cancer, it is one of the most common forms of neck and head cancer in Singapore.
Detecting nose cancer early is crucial for successful treatment. One of the most effective methods of early detection is nose cancer screening. This process involves tests and examinations carried out by a nose sinus specialist or ENT expert to check for signs of nose cancer. Screening can include procedures like nasal endoscopy, where a thin tube with a camera is inserted into the nose to look for abnormal growths and imaging tests like CT scans or MRI scans to get detailed pictures of the nasal cavity and sinuses. These screenings help identify any potential issues that may indicate nose cancer.
Read on as we delve deeper into the different methods of nose cancer screening and when it is advisable to consider it.
Methods of nose cancer screening
If you and your doctor decide that nose cancer screening is appropriate for you, several methods may be used:
1. Nasal endoscopy
Nasal endoscopy is a procedure commonly used in nose cancer screening. It involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera called an endoscope into the nasal cavity. The endoscope allows the doctor to examine the nasal passages and sinuses closely. This procedure helps detect abnormal growths or suspicious areas that indicate nose cancer.
Another common method in nose cancer screening is biopsy. The doctor removes a small tissue sample from the sinuses or nasal cavity during a biopsy. After the sample has been collected, a pathologist analyses it in a laboratory. To determine whether cancer cells are present in the tissue, the pathologist examines it under a microscope. An accurate diagnosis of nose cancer can be confirmed with a biopsy, as well as information on the type and stage of the cancer.
3. CT scan
A CT scan is an imaging test that uses X-rays from different perspectives to capture images of what’s inside the body. A computer then merges these images to create a highly detailed, three-dimensional representation, revealing irregularities or growths, such as tumours. CT scans can also provide measurements of tumour size. A contrast medium is sometimes administered before the scan to enhance image clarity. This contrast medium can be introduced into a patient’s vein through injection or consumed orally in the form of a pill or liquid. CT scans are valuable diagnostic tools for identifying nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancers.
4. Blood tests
Blood tests are another method that can aid in nose cancer screening. Although there is no specific blood test that can definitively diagnose nose cancer, certain markers in the blood may indicate the presence of cancer or provide additional information about its progression. Blood tests can help assess overall health, identify specific biomarkers, or detect any abnormalities that may warrant further investigation.
When should you consider nose cancer screening?
Nose cancer screening is not recommended for everyone because nose cancer is relatively rare. However, certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing the disease. If you fall into any of these categories, it is worth considering nose cancer screening:
1. Exposure to harmful substances
Prolonged exposure to certain substances increases the risk of nose cancer. Substances like wood dust, leather dust, nickel, or formaldehyde have been linked to this type of cancer. If you work in an environment where you regularly come into contact with these substances, it is advisable to discuss nose cancer screening with your healthcare provider.
2. Previous nasal conditions
Having a history of chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps, or other nasal conditions may put you at a higher risk of developing nose cancer. Your doctor or ENT specialist may recommend screening to monitor any changes in the nasal cavity or sinuses that could indicate the presence of cancer.
3. Family history
Nose cancer, like many other types of cancer, can have a hereditary component. If you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with nose cancer, it is important to inform your doctor. They can assess your risk and advise you on whether nose cancer screening is appropriate for you.
4. Persistent symptoms
If you experience persistent symptoms related to your nose or sinuses, it is essential to seek medical attention. Symptoms such as nasal congestion, frequent nosebleeds, facial pain or swelling, or persistent headaches could be signs of nose cancer. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and determine if further investigation, including screening, is necessary.
Nose cancer screening is essential in determining the presence of nose cancer. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms or risk factors stated above, consider seeking advice from an ENT specialist to undergo a thorough evaluation at an ear, nose and throat clinic before jumping to conclusions about what your symptoms might indicate.
These healthcare professionals are specialised in diagnosing and treating conditions related to the nose and sinuses and can determine whether further investigation, such as nose cancer screening or treatment, is necessary. Remember, early detection plays a vital role in managing any underlying condition, including potential cancers. Stay proactive about your health and seek medical attention when needed.