Sinus Cancer

Understanding the Anatomy

The paranasal sinsuses are air-filled spaces in the head. The sinuses are very closely related to some major structures. They are close to the brain, the eyes, the carotid artery, the teeth and important nerves in the head and neck area.


There are four pairs of sinuses.

  • Maxillary sinus: This is the cheek sinus. This sinus is located above your teeth, below your eye and next to your nose. There is one on each side. This is the biggest sinus. There is a little drainage hole so all the mucous made in the sinus can drain into your nasal cavity just under the middle turbinate. The maxillary sinus is the most common site for a sinonasal cancer.
  • Ethmoid sinuses: This is a group of 10-20 small sinuses with very thin walls that sit basically between the eyes and the nasal septum. The eye (actually the orbit) is to one side of the ethmoid sinus, and there is just a thin piece of bone that separates the two. This, along with the nasal cavity, is tied for being the second most common site of sinonasal cancer. Mucous from the ethmoid sinuses drains into the nasal cavity, under both the middle and superior turbinates.
  • Frontal sinus: This sinus (also one on each side) is located behind the forehead and over the eye. It drains just below the middle turbinate through a passageway called the nasofrontal duct.
  • Sphenoid sinus: This sinus is located behind the nose at the base of the skull. Many important structures are found just behind the sphenoid sinus, including the brain, the nerve of vision, and the main blood vessel to the brain (the carotid artery). The mucous from here empties just below the superior turbinate into the nasal cavity.


The exact functions of the sinuses are not clear, but it is thought that they play a role in:

  • Humidification of the air
  • Keeping the head light in weight
  • Making the voice resonate as it does
  • Maybe even preventing hits or falls on the face from causing major skull damage



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