Effect of treatments for head and neck cancer on sinus shadow on computed tomography

Published:March 24, 2022DOI:



      Head and neck surgeries may cause changes in the nasal airflow, and radiotherapy irreversibly damages paranasal sinus epithelial cells. Some chemotherapeutic drugs have been reported to negatively affect airway ciliary activity in mice, and chronic rhinosinusitis could be an adverse effect of head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment. To evaluate whether HNC treatment is a risk factor for developing sinonasal mucosal thickening that may reflect paranasal sinus inflammation, we compared pre- and post-treatment paranasal sinus computed tomography (CT) images of patients treated for HNC at a single university hospital.


      The patients who received curative treatment for HNC (oral, pharyngeal, and laryngeal cancers) and started receiving first-line therapy between January 2015 and December 2019 were included. Data on age, sex, primary lesion, clinical stage, treatment, smoking history, drinking history, comorbidities (diabetes and chronic lung disease), and pre- and post-treatment (three months and one year after the final treatment) paranasal sinus CT images were analyzed from medical records. Pre- and post-treatment paranasal sinus CT images were scored using the Lund–Mackay (LM) staging system.


      In total, 245 patients participated in this study. Three months after the final treatment, 80.4% of patients had no change in their total LM scores (p=0.621). Almost 80% of patients who underwent total laryngectomy also had no change in their total LM scores (p=0.833). One-third of patients with nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) had worse LM scores after treatment (5/15), although no significant difference was observed (p=0.171). None of the various factors collected were significantly related to changes in LM scores three months after the completion of treatment. One year after the final treatment, 211 patients were included and no significant changes in the pre-and post-LM scores were observed in the same analyses, while changes in LM scores were significantly different between T categories (T1-2 vs. T3-4) (p=0.020).


      We found no significant changes in the LM scores after HNC treatment in all the patients, which implies that HNC treatment may not be an apparent risk factor for sinonasal mucosal inflammation.


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