woman putting spray in nose

What is the likelihood that when someone has a persistently clogged single nostril that it’s cancer?

When a bothersome symptom occurs on only one side, this is can cause a lot of anxiety, bringing to mind the possibility of a malignancy.

A malignant mass on some area of the body very rarely has an opposite side twin. Symptoms from cancer usually appear on one side of the body when left-right quadrants are applicable.

For example, a bleeding or inverted nipple from breast cancer; an eye symptom or leg weakness from a brain tumor; or a nose symptom from a sinus tumor.

Though many cancers cause symptoms that don’t involve sides of the body, such as bloody bowel movements, weight loss, suppressed appetite, fatigue, coughing, a hoarse voice and difficulty swallowing, many symptoms DO involve one side or the other – determined by the cancer’s location.

Cancer in the left lung, for example, might cause pain in the left shoulder, but not the right shoulder.

So when just one nostril is stuffed up – longer than it should be from a cold – this gets some people really worrying about a tumor.

“Although it is possible that a clogged nostril is from a cancer of some kind, cancer is really far down the list of potential causes,” says Gene Liu, MD, MMM, President, Chair, Department of Surgery; Chief, Division of Otolaryngology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Group.

“Astronomically more common than cancer are explanations such as a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates [nasal structure], polyps, fungus/mold, foreign bodies and many benign growths,” explains Dr. Liu.

Benign Growths of the Nasal Cavity
• Cysts – Fluid filled sac.
• Hemangioma – Vascular concentration.
• Inverting papilloma – Wart-like growth.
• Osteoma – Bony overgrowth.
• Polyps – Overgrowth of the mucosal lining of the nasal cavities.

Dr. Liu explains, “Many types of cancer can cause a clogged nostril, but all of them are rare.

“Nasopharyngeal cancer, squamous cell cancer, other cancers involving the mucosal lining, esthesioblastoma and sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma (SNUC) are just some of the types that can be found in the sinuses or nasal cavity.”

If you put all these cancers, that can cause one nostril to be blocked, together, they’d comprise a very small percentage of ALL the possible things inside the nose that can stuff up only one nostril.

Want more reassurance? Consider the risk factors for sinus or paranasal cancer:
• Occupational exposure to wood, leather or nickel dust
• Smoking
• Occupational exposure to the chemicals used to make rubbing alcohol
• Occupational exposure to radium-226
• Epstein-Barr virus
• Inverted papilloma. This rare and benign growth has up to a 10 percent chance of malignant transformation.

Additional Reassurance
Stop thinking that cancer is causing one nostril to be clogged. Paranasal cancers are very rare.

Dr. Liu’s clinical areas of focus cover a broad range including surgery of the head and neck, sinuses and thyroid, and disorders of the ears, salivary glands and vocal cords.
Source: cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/nasal-paranasal/risks/?region=on