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Unusual Cancers of the Head and Neck



    Treatment of nasopharyngeal cancer in children may include the following:

    • Radiation therapy.
    • Chemotherapy given before and at the same time as radiation therapy.
    • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy given with interferon-beta.
    • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy given with brachytherapy.
    • Surgery, in certain cases.
    • Biologic therapy using EBV-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes.

    Young patients are more likely than adults to have problems caused by treatment, including second cancers.

    See the PDQ summary on adult Nasopharyngeal Cancer Treatment for more information.


    Esthesioneuroblastoma (olfactory neuroblastoma) is a tumor that begins in the olfactory bulb in the brain. The olfactory bulb connects to the nerve that is important to the sense of smell. Even though it is rare, esthesioneuroblastoma is the most common tumor of the nasal cavity in children.

    Most children have a tumor in the nose or throat at the time of diagnosis. The tumor may spread into the bone around the eyes, sinuses, and the front part of the brain. The disease rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Esthesioneuroblastoma is more common in boys and usually appears during the teen years.

    Symptoms and Staging Tests

    Esthesioneuroblastoma may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your child's doctor if you see any of the following problems in your child:

    • Blocked nose.
    • Nosebleeds.
    • Loss of the sense of smell.
    • Bulging of the eye.
    • Frequent sinus infections.

    Other conditions that are not esthesioneuroblastoma may cause these same symptoms.

    Esthesioneuroblastoma has usually spread by the time it is diagnosed. Tests to stage esthesioneuroblastoma may include the following:

    • PET-CT scan: Sometimes a PET scan and a CT scan are done at the same time. If there is any cancer, this increases the chance that it will be found.

    See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.


    The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on whether the cancer is only in the nose or if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.


    Treatment of esthesioneuroblastoma in children may include the following:

    • Surgery and radiation therapy. Newer treatments include sinus surgery done through an endoscope, radiosurgery, or proton beam radiation therapy.
    • Chemotherapy before or after surgery to remove the cancer, in children with advanced cancer.

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