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Supportive care for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer
Supportive care helps people meet the physical, practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of having cancer. It is an important part of cancer care. There are many programs and services available to help meet the needs and improve the quality of life of people living with cancer and their loved ones, especially after treatment has ended.
Recovering from cancer in the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses and adjusting to life after treatment is different for each person. Recovery depends on the stage of the cancer, the type of treatment and many other factors. The end of cancer treatment may bring mixed emotions. Even though treatment has ended, there may be other issues to deal with, such as coping with long-term side effects. A person who has been treated for cancer in the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses may have the following concerns.
Self-esteem and body image
How a person feels about or sees themselves is called self-esteem. Body image is a person’s perception of their own body. Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer and its treatments can affect self-esteem and body image. Often this is because cancer or cancer treatments may result in body changes, such as:
- skin changes
- changes to the shape and appearance of the face
- having to use a prosthesis in the mouth, nose or eye
- weight loss
Some of these changes can be temporary, others will last for a long time and some will be permanent. Today’s surgical techniques and reconstructive surgery help to lessen the changes to the appearance of the face after surgery.
Our faces play a big role in our self-esteem and body image because they are the most visible parts of our bodies. For many people, body image and their perception of how others see them is closely linked to self-esteem. It may be a real concern for them and can cause considerable distress. They may be afraid to go out, be afraid others will reject them and feel angry or upset.
Find out more about self-esteem and body image.
Poor nutrition and weight loss
Both surgery and radiation therapy for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer can make chewing and swallowing difficult. Other side effects of treatment may cause difficulty opening the jaw (called trismus), sore mouth (called mucositis), dry mouth (called xerostomia), taste changes and loss of appetite. All of these problems can lead to poor nutrition and weight loss.
You can take steps to help increase your appetite, eat more and maintain good nutrition. Your healthcare team can make suggestions on how you can eat well during and after treatment. A registered dietitian can often help people deal with loss of appetite and poor nutrition.
In some cases, treatments may make it difficult for you to meet all your nutritional needs with food or nutritional supplements by mouth. You may need to get nutrients through a feeding tube until you are able to eat normally.
Mouth and dental care
Good mouth and dental care is very important after treatments for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer. Radiation therapy and some types of surgery can put you at risk for developing an infection in your mouth and cavities in your teeth. Radiation therapy of the head and neck can lead to a dry mouth (called xerostomia) if the salivary glands become damaged. Having a dry mouth increases the risk of developing cavities.
You will likely be told to rinse with a saline solution of water, salt and baking soda in the first few weeks after surgery. After about a month, your healthcare team may recommend that you apply the saline solution and a hydrogen peroxide-based solution to the mouth with a bulb, syringe or power-spray unit to clean the inside of the mouth. It is important to make sure the area of the surgery is cleaned well. You should start brushing your teeth and flossing as soon as possible. You will also likely have regular fluoride treatments to prevent tooth decay and loss of teeth.
If you’ve had radiation therapy, you will likely be told to see your dentist every 4 to 8 weeks in the first 6 months after treatment. After 6 months, the dentist will tell you how often you need to be seen based on your needs.
Learn about mouth care.
Osteoradionecrosis is bone death due to radiation. The bone dies because radiation damages its blood vessels. You are at risk of osteoradionecrosis if you’ve had radiation therapy for cancer in the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses.
Visit your dentist for a thorough dental exam and teeth cleaning before you have radiation therapy. If you need to have any teeth removed or cavities filled, do so before radiation therapy. The dentist will also tell you to brush your teeth and floss regularly. They may also suggest that you have daily fluoride treatments before you begin radiation therapy.
Learn more about osteoradionecrosis.
Smoking can increase your chances of cancer recurring. It can also affect how well you heal and your rehabilitation. Your healthcare team can suggest ways to help you quit smoking.
Brock has been cancer free for over a decade, thanks to the support we received from the Canadian Cancer Society.
Volunteers provide comfort and kindness
Thousands of Canadian Cancer Society volunteers work in regional cancer centres, lodges and community hospitals to support people receiving treatment.