Is Esthesioneuroblastoma a Cancer?

Medically Reviewed on 4/29/2022
Is esthesioneuroblastoma a cancer?
Esthesioneuroblastoma is a rare cancerous tumor that starts in the nasal cavity.

Esthesioneuroblastoma or olfactory neuroblastoma is a cancerous (malignant) tumor that starts in the upper portion of the nasal cavity (the space inside the nose).

  • The site where this rare cancer begins is separated from the brain by a thin bone (ethmoid bone). Several nerves and blood vessels pass through tiny holes in this bone.
  • The nasal cavity has nerves and other tissue responsible for the sense of smell.

This type of tumor can spread into the nearby eyes, sinus, and lymph nodes in the neck, lungs, and brain.

14 symptoms of esthesioneuroblastoma

Some of the warning signs and symptoms of esthesioneuroblastoma include:

  1. Decreased sense of smell
  2. Stuffiness or congestion that worsens or does not improve
  3. Blockage of the nose
  4. Frequent nosebleeds
  5. Pus from the nose
  6. Face or tooth numbness
  7. Loose teeth
  8. Loss of or change in vision
  9. Ear pain or pressure
  10. Trouble opening the mouth
  11. Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  12. Nasal drainage in the throat (postnasal drip)
  13. Watery eyes
  14. Pain around the eyes

What causes esthesioneuroblastoma?

The exact cause of esthesioneuroblastoma is unknown. Generally, cancer is caused by mutations in genes, resulting in the uncontrolled multiplication of cells. DNA consists of genes responsible to provide instructions for cell growth and division.

Two types of genes are associated with cancer development:

  1. Oncogenes: Genes promote cell division.
  2. Tumor suppressor genes: Genes slow down cell division or make cells die at the right time.

DNA mutations cause the activation of oncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes, which can lead to the formation of cancer cells. These cells aggregate together to form a mass or tumor.

Some conditions may increase your risk of nasal cavity tumors:

  • Exposure to harmful chemicals and particles through work, including:
    • Wood dust
    • Flour
    • Nickel
    • Cadmium dust
    • Glues
    • Formaldehyde and other solvents
  • Tobacco smoke


Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images See Slideshow

How is esthesioneuroblastoma treated?

Treatment mainly depends on the stage of the tumor.

Some of the treatment options to treat esthesioneuroblastoma include:

  • Surgery: Surgery aims to remove the complete tumor and some surrounding healthy tissues to prevent the recurrence of the tumor.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is commonly the second treatment option for some esthesioneuroblastoma tumors. Radiation therapy may be the main treatment, or it may be used in adjunct to surgery to prevent the recurrence of tumor cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the choice when the cancer cells have spread to other parts. It is commonly used in combination with radiation after surgery to treat some esthesioneuroblastoma.

4 complications of esthesioneuroblastoma

Since esthesioneuroblastoma is a cancerous tumor, there are many complications associated with this type of tumor.

  1. Cancer may invade the nearby structures and cause complications if the tumor grows large enough to invade the eyes and brain.
  2. Spread of cancer or metastasis (Esthesioneuroblastoma may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, bone marrow, lungs, liver, skin, and bones.)
  3. Loss of the sense of smell and difficulty breathing (The tumor can obstruct the nasal passage blocking the airflow through the nose.)
  4. Complications from surgery:
    • Spinal fluid leakage
    • Infection
    • Vision problems
    • Abscess
Medically Reviewed on 4/29/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Olfactory Neuroblastoma.

National Institutes of Health. Olfactory Neuroblastoma.